Heroin, a drug that used to be hard to find in the Fox Valley, is now more available than ever.
Police and fire department emergency responders are seeing more overdose cases than they used to and finding the drug more often, according to reports from the Elgin Gang and Drug Task Force.
The task force has existed since 1982 and includes police officers, social service workers, court officials, medical personnel, youth program leaders and school district representatives working to combat gang violence and drug use in the city.
Aloune Khotisene, president of the task force, said when he got involved with the group in 1998 the focus was mainly on violence and marijuana use.
"Now in the modern era, heroin is becoming a danger as a potent drug that is used not just by gangs, but also the upper middle class people," Khotisene said.
The group will host an information session at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Elgin High School auditorium to give parents and professionals the information they need to recognize heroin use and take steps to stop it.
Mann Spitler III, a doctor from Valparaiso, Ind., will speak about his daughter, Manda, who died of a heroin overdose in 2002. The task force will then give a presentation about heroin, its effects, how to detect its use and what to do about it.
Attendees will also have the chance to ask questions of Spitler and task force members.
John Heiderscheidt, Elgin Area School District U-46 safety coordinator, is a board member on the task force. He said the goal of the presentation is to empower people to see the signs of drug use and take action before it's too late. Heroin, often used in the form of a white powder, is a powerful drug that turns addictive incredibly quickly. Young people using heroin often do so under the radar of those around them.
"It's not about finding the drug, it's about seeing the symptoms of the drug and knowing what you're looking at," Heiderscheidt said.
The entire community is encouraged to attend the free session, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at Elgin High, 1200 Maroon Drive.