Suburban nonprofit groups strike back against heroin

Maybe it's a grieving mother on a crusade. Maybe it's a group of friends who need a place to stay sober ... and still have fun.

Maybe it's a sister motivated by a brother's death, or a health agency doing its part, or a ramped-up drug prevention campaign.

Maybe it's an entire county saying, “Enough is enough.”

Nonprofit groups working to combat the heroin epidemic are taking a variety of forms and approaches as people affected by the drug work to raise awareness of its dangers, promote sober living and prevent others from using.

Here's a look at several suburban groups working to address the spread of heroin:

• HERO: Founded by John Roberts of Homer Glen and Brian Kirk after each lost a son to a heroin overdose, HERO stands for Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization. It aims to call attention to the heroin epidemic, build a support network of families who have lost children to the drug and bring about a day when no parent has to experience the death of a child from addiction.

• Live4Lali: Buffalo Grove native Chelsea Laliberte founded Live4Lali after the death of her brother, Alex, to a heroin overdose in 2008. The group offers real-life testimonies, education and support about mental health, addiction, drug use and overdose issues.

• LTM Heroin Awareness & Support Foundation: Louie Theodore Miceli, who died of a heroin overdose at age 24 in 2012, is the namesake for a charity run by his mother, Felicia. Based in Addison, the foundation educates the public about the effects of heroin, works to prevent its use and support those affected by the disease of addiction.

• The Other Side: A nonprofit sober night club in Crystal Lake was established when The Other Side opened in 2013. As a “sober bar,” The Other Side, at 93 E. Berkshire Lane, Unit G, exists to unify the sober community, provide a safe and fun environment for those who choose a substance-free lifestyle and change the stigma associated with sober living.

• ParentsMatterToo: Established under the Naperville nonprofit KidsMatter, ParentsMatterToo aims to help parents address the challenges their children face — be it heroin addiction, other drug experimentation, stress at school or the pressure to be perfect. The organization gathers parents for weekly Parent Conversation Circles to learn from each other and its website provides “ask the expert” videos with answers to questions about drugs and other topics.

• Robert Crown Health Center: The nonprofit Hinsdale health center's heroin prevention program focuses on teaching middle and high school students the scientific facts and social/emotional context to understand the risks of heroin use.

• Take A Stand: A grass-roots organization formed in 2012 in the Lake Zurich area when several friends became fed up with the increasing number of heroin overdose deaths — and the community's numbness to the tragedies. Take A Stand hosts fundraisers for the Jeremy Stom Remembrance Foundation and community forums to help people realize addiction is a disease.

Several suburban counties also are getting involved in the fight against heroin by equipping police officers with an overdose reversal drug called Naloxone or Narcan, and by providing resources to their communities. Here are four such county initiatives:

• DuPage Coalition Against Heroin:

• Lake County Opioid Initiative:

• McHenry County Heroin Awareness Initiative:

• Will County Helps/HERO Initiative:

• This article is part of our “Heroin in the Suburbs: Through Their Eyes” series. For more see

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