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Article updated: 3/20/2013 10:44 PM

Roselle forum addresses heroin 'crisis'

By Jamie Sotonoff

It's happening to kids from good families, with good parents.

That's why a group of DuPage County police departments sought to educate the public Wednesday night about the prevalence of heroin in the community and the danger it poses to anyone who tries it.

The forum -- hosted by the Bloomingdale, Roselle, Itasca and Hanover Park police -- gave eye-popping statistics about heroin deaths, video of suburban kids buying drugs on Chicago's west side, photos of the actual drug, and scientific data.

"This is a health crisis and an education crisis," DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin said told the audience of roughly 50 people at Lake Park High School in Roselle.

Audience members, some of whom had been personally been impacted by heroin addiction, urged the schools to do more.

While pilot programs have been started in a handful of schools by Hinsdale-based Robert Crown Center, parents said most children are still unaware and unafraid of addiction and withdrawl, and don't even know what heroin is -- thinking it's no more dangerous than prescription pain medicine.

Often, people start with marijuana, escalate to opioid pain pills, and then to heroin, officials said.

"There is almost nothing more addicting than heroin, and nothing causes more physical harm to the body," said DuPage County Coroner Robert Jorgensen, adding that there already have been five heroin-related deaths in the county this year, and there were 38 the year before.

A few of the forum's speakers encouraged parents to snoop on their children's cell phones, looking for unfamiliar numbers with 773 and 708 area codes, and check their rooms for suspcious items, such as miniature baggies or tin foil. Berlin said if people call his office, he'll tell them about an app that lets them monitor their child's texts and social media posts. The forum offered many warning signs of heroin use, such as missing items, excessive sleepiness and a frumpy appearance.

The forum also urged people to tell their children about the new 911 Good Samaritan law, which gives them immunity if they call 911 to report an overdose, as long as they don't have large quantities of drugs in their possession.

"Spread the word because that's the only way to deal with this crisis," Berlin said.

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