It's time to develop a more coordinated approach to fighting heroin use in Kane County, county Coroner Rob Russell said Tuesday night.
And Kane County Sheriff Don Kramer said pursuing "traditional" avenues of education, treatment and law enforcement were fine, but "there are other things we can do to make this happen."
They were addressing several dozen people at a forum they co-sponsored on heroin abuse, held at the Overseas Post 1197, Veterans of Foreign War, in Batavia.
Heroin is nothing new in Kane County; suburban police began reporting an increase in its use in the mid-1990s. So why did Russell and Kramer have the forum?
"Because I care. One death is too many," said Kramer.
Russell said the death rate from heroin overdoses nationwide has tripled since 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
"I call on this county to help me in setting up some kind of an action plan and coalition on how to deal with heroin," Russell said. He cited the example of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, which focuses on four aspects: Preventing people from using the drug, treating those who are addicted, keeping the drug out of the area, and coordinating the efforts of every agency and group that deals with the effects of heroin.
Russell and Kramer invited representatives from about a dozen anti-heroin treatment programs and support groups to hand out information. Several also spoke, including "Narcan Mom" Caroline Kacena of Naperville, whose son died of a heroin overdose.
She is pushing to make naloxone, the generic version of Narcan, which can reverse the effects of an overdose, much more available to laypersons such as parents of heroin users and the heroin users themselves. She also advocates for federal approval of a nasal spray version of the antidote.
"The real first-responders are parents. We're the ones who walk in and find our kids dead," she said.
According to Russell, 71 people died of heroin overdoses in Kane County from 2012 through 2014. Naperville police officer Shaun Ferguson reviewed what heroin looks like and signs of use.
Fellow Naperville police officer Rich Wistocki implored parents to monitor their children's cellphone and computer use for signs of conversations about drug use, and to do home drug tests, even on the faintest suspicion. He said even if results are negative, that gives the kids "a big stick" in their arsenal when to say "no" to drugs. They can tell friends they can't, because their parents test them. Other tips he offered included apps that allow parents to see who is texting or calling their child and what they are saying. He encouraged them to have only Android-based phones, saying iPhones don't allow such monitoring.
"There is no such thing as privacy for children," he said, pooh-poohing concerns that children won't trust parents who check their phones or search their rooms.
Recovering addicts also spoke, and "scholarships" for 2 drug treatment programs were given away.