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updated: 4/24/2017 11:53 PM

Documentary screening on opioid addiction draws emotional crowd

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It was a surprisingly emotional evening at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights Monday night as an audience shared views and stories about loved ones addicted to opioid drugs.

"I deserve to be alive," said Stephany Gay of Long Beach. "I deserved to be happy!"

Gay was one of several people addicted to opioid drugs profiled in Perri Peltz's documentary "Warning: This Drug May Kill You." It will premiere on HBO May 1, but an advance showing took place Monday at the Metropolis before an invitation-only audience.

Gay was a surprise guest, having just seen the completed movie Monday. In it, we see how Gay's sister died from a drug overdose precipitated by addictive pills legally prescribed by physicians.

The Lake County Opioid Initiative, an organization dedicated to drug overdose interventions and getting victims into treatment, sponsored the documentary. Following the premiere, a panel discussed the widespread use of opioids and the methods authorities are using to combat it.

Panelists were Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim; Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther; producer Sascha Weiss; Wauconda resident Laura Fry, of the Live4Lali organization; and Kathy Kelly, the mother of Stephany Kelly, the first of four opioid-addicted people profiled in the movie. Daily Herald film critic Dann Gire served as moderator.

Fry's group, Live4Lali, is named for Alex "Lali" Laliberte, who died of a drug overdose in December 2008. He was the brother of Lake County Opioid Initiative co-founder and Streamwood resident Chelsea Laliberte, who also founded Live4Lali.

The organization sponsors a clinic in Arlington Heights where people can obtain educational materials, training and even doses of the antidote naloxone if they suspect loved ones might be using heroin or opioids. The Illinois Lali's Law allows pharmacists to dispense naloxone to people in need.

"We want to help people. It may sound like a cliché, but we want to help," chief Gruenther said, citing a dramatic change in how police are changing how they treat addicts as people in need instead of criminals.

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