Lake County authorities say they'll use a battle of the bands competition called Lali-Palooza to start a discussion about the serious issue of heroin and opiate overdosing.
"Young people look at stereotypes of the music industry that glamorize drug use," Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said. "With this (Lali-Palooza), they can see you can have fun and it doesn't have to be about drugs."
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Lali-Palooza, co-hosted by nonprofit Live4Lali and the Lake County state's attorney's office, is a fundraising event set for 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Peterson Road in Grayslake. It's meant to raise awareness about what Nerheim called a "harrowing epidemic" in the county.
Deaths as a result of heroin overdose have spiked in Lake County in the past three to four years, he said. There were 33 deaths attributed to the drug last year, and 11 deaths so far this year, according to statistics from the Lake County coroner's office.
"One of the challenges I've seen when I go and talk about this issue is a lot of people don't know it exists, or don't want to know it exists," Nerheim said.
Lali-Palooza's namesake, Alex "Lali" Laliberte, was a 20-year-old who died of a heroin overdose in his mother's Buffalo Grove home in 2008. His sister, Chelsea Laliberte, started Live4Lali in 2009 to raise awareness about substance abuse in Lake County and to work toward preventing events similar to those that led to her brother's death.
Often, Chelsea Laliberte said, even close family and friends will have relatively few indications about a person's drug use. They sometimes find out the hard way, as the Laliberte family did, when the person overdoses.
"It was just as shocking to other people as it was to us. We found out on the day (Alex) died," she said.
The need for social awareness of these problems is why she said Lali-Palooza will have various speakers, including former Chicago Bear Desmond Clark, who will sign autographs and speak about issues relating to drug abuse.
Chelsea Laliberte said Lali-Palooza will also have educational programs mixed in with the music and speakers, including training demonstrations on how to use Naloxone, an antidote used by first responders that reverses the effects of opioid overdose.
Those interested in the Naloxone training demonstrations can sign up by emailing their name, phone number and preferred time between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We live in this society where stigmas thrive -- ignorance is what causes overdoses," Chelsea Laliberte said.
All of the proceeds from Lali-Palooza will go to drug overdose prevention activities and education, some of them being used to support the Lake County Opioid Prevention Initiative, which formed last May. Nerheim said the purpose of the initiative is to get all parts of the county -- local government, police, pharmacies and treatment providers -- attuned to the complex problems of opiate abuse in the area.
"It's a call to action," he said.
General admission tickets are $10, but those who show their Naloxone demonstration confirmation email at the door will get in for half the price. For more info, call Chelsea Laliberte at (847) 814-3988.