Police say heroin overdoses and deaths are declining in Naperville, thanks partly to public education efforts.
But the 11 candidates running for city council in the April 9 election -- Judith Brodhead, Kevin Coyne, Jeff Davis, Wayne Floegel, Thomas Glass, Bill Habel, Paul Hinterlong, Doug Krause, John Krummen, Jo Malik and David Wentz -- say this is no time for anyone to rest on their laurels.
The fight against heroin must continue until its use in the city has been eradicated, they say, but they differ on where the battle should be waged.
Police Chief Bob Marshall said reported heroin deaths and overdoses peaked in 2011 with seven deaths and 25 overdoses. In 2012, there were two reported deaths and 16 overdoses. So far this year, there have been no heroin-related deaths or overdoses reported.
"We're very happy to see those numbers decreasing and I would say we're seeing that as a result of the public forums that are occurring. The public awareness has created a response that has resulted in less overdoses and fewer heroin-related deaths," Marshall said. "The education is very important so people understand how dangerous this drug is. This is a drug that people used to think you had to liquefy it and shoot it up with a hypodermic syringe. Now it's crushed up in a powder form and all you have to do is snort it."
Incumbent Judy Brodhead said education has to be the focus because the drug culture is evolving.
"This is a different kind of drug use than even people might know about in their late 20s," she said. "My youngest son is 27 and he's pretty shocked by this. It is not the kind of heroin you remember from the '60s and '70s."
Attorney Kevin Coyne said he never thought he would be talking to his children about heroin in Naperville.
"I think awareness is key to this," he said. "I think we fight it using any means necessary and working with police, working with parents and we don't stop until we eradicate this problem."
Naperville Public Library board member Jeff Davis said it's going to take the entire community to defeat the drug.
"It takes a multifaceted approach," he said. "It's a tough issue that's been around for decades and it's obviously hit this community hard, but I think everyone needs to band together."
Wayne Floegel, a member of the city's Transportation Advisory Board, said parents need to be more informed.
"Education is important. I don't think a lot of parents even know what to look for if their child is starting to dabble in drugs," Floegel said. "It's a huge problem and I'm glad to see the city is putting some money toward it."
Tom Glass, president of a metal finishing company, said acknowledging the problem is only the first step.
"It needs to be a combination of city, police, schools, parents, social service and churches working together. The city really needs to acknowledge this as a problem. As of late, it has come out, but only because of deaths that have appeared in the paper," Glass said. "To me it's appalling that this exists in our schools. It's a very serious issue and it's something we just can't have any tolerance for."
Bill Habel, an electrical workers union representative, said the issue has touched his home.
"(We saw one of) my daughter's ... classmates had overdosed. She knew that individual quite closely and that hits home when you see your own child affected like that," he said. "Are we doing enough? The answer, if our children are dying, is 'no.' We have to start digging to the root of the problem."
Incumbent Paul Hinterlong said continued education is key to combating use of the drug.
"We're throwing more money toward our social services and organizations trained in these situations, not only to train students but provide an awareness to parents who might not recognize the effects of when a child is starting to become an addict," he said. "It's all about education and trying to identify when a child has an issue. As a council, we're stepping up to that."
Incumbent Doug Krause said the city has acknowledged the problem.
"Recently the city council kicked in $50,000 to help an education program because that's the bottom line here, getting into the schools and educating through bringing in examples to show kids they're headed down the wrong path," Krause said. "Working with police and schools is key. We've invested money into that and we're willing to put more into that issue because it's getting worse and worse."
Engineering consultant John Krummen said the city was late to address the problem.
"The city needs to acknowledge there's a problem, stand up and address it. How can you address a problem unless you first see there is one?" he asked. "The city is getting better and understands that now. We're a little late getting to the table but we need to move forward as a team."
Local business owner Jo Malik suggested the city stop misdirecting funds.
"Yes, heroin use is getting worse; the DuPage County state's attorney has called it an epidemic. My issue with funding from the council is that more money has gone to the bell tower (Naperville's Millennium Carillon in Moser Tower) instead of specifically addressing heroin addiction and suicide rates of our teens," she said. "More attention and resources should be directed at the problem. We have groups that are willing to step up and help, they just need the funding. Rather than fund the bell tower, how about we save our kids?"
Local attorney David Wentz called the heroin problem a nightmare.
"As a father of two teenagers and one who is about to be, it's our worst nightmare," Wentz said. "It's something we all need to be more aware of. I applaud the council's efforts."
To see all our coverage of the Naperville City Council race, including candidate bios, go to http://www.dailyherald.com/news/politics/election/race/Naperville-City-Council/.