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updated: 1/20/2014 4:31 PM

DuPage to sponsor heroin prevention forum

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A countywide effort to warn DuPage County residents about the dangers of heroin is beginning this week with a prevention forum in Wheaton.

The session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, in the auditorium of the county's administration building, 421 N. County Farm Road.

Organizers say the goal is to educate students, parents and community members about heroin and its impact on the community and provide information about local resources. Featured speakers will include Bill Patrianokis of the Hero Epidemic Relief Organization and Felicia Miceli of LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation.

"Heroin is destroying our families as the addiction not only affects the users, but also their family, friends and community," county board member Grant Eckhoff said in a statement. "Understanding that prevention is the key to saving lives, we felt that it was important to provide the tools and resources necessary to stop the epidemic and assist families who are struggling with the effects of the drug."

DuPage officials agreed to spend $100,000 on a public education campaign in response to a record number of heroin deaths last year.

There were at least 45 confirmed heroin-related deaths in DuPage in 2013. Depending on the results of toxicology tests, the final number could climb by one or two.

Thursday's forum, which is the first in a series of outreach efforts, was organized by the DuPage Coalition Against Heroin. The coalition includes the county board, the county health department, Coroner Rich Jorgensen and State's Attorney Robert Berlin.

In addition to the forum, the coalition this week is planning to launch a website and social media campaign, officials said.

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