Kane Co. warns of rising cost of heroin abuse
Descriptions of gruesome murders come across Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon's desk on a regular basis. So do various assaults and other crimes.
But the case that most recently caught his attention involved a young woman, rougly age 22, found overdosed to the point of unconsciousness at a Geneva Starbucks.
"She was admitted to the hospital," McMahon said. "It's a concerning situation. We're seeing a significant increase in heroin use."
Significant equates to a 30 percent increase compared to just last year, McMahon said.
But he's not the only one thinking about a rising tide of heroin in the county. McMahon was joined by Chief Judge Judy Brawka, Sheriff Pat Perez and Coroner Rob Russell in spontaneous commentary on the drug's infiltration into the county in recent years.
Perez joined the others at a meeting Friday of the Kane County Board Judicial and Public Safety Committee. He said heroin has been on the rise in the county since the late 1990s. The problem is particularly bad in Geneva and St. Charles, despite the relative difficulty of obtaining the drug in the county itself.
"We don't have heroin dealers in Kane County," Perez said. "What we see is people take the train to the west side of Chicago and bring it back. That makes it very difficult on us. The reasons they are using the trains is they know there is no chance they will get stopped, at least in any kind of traffic stop, and get caught. You'll see cocaine busts here. You'll see marijuana busts. But it's very rare you'll see heroin."
Perez led a series of community informational meetings about heroin and its impact on the area last year. However, he was disappointed in low turnout at many of the events.
When awareness drops, more addicts arise, the group said. Brawka said she recently took a call from a nearby jurisdiction looking to send a 17-year-old girl, who is addicted to heroin, to be incarcerated in the county's juvenile detention facility. The girl is also pregnant. That's a triple whammy for taxpayers, Brawka said. There is the cost of the normal incarceration, plus the costs of drug treatment, plus the medical care for the birth of what will likely be a drug-addicted baby.
"As long as she's in custody, it will be a significant cost," Brawka said. "Heroin is a significant issue for all of us. It has a significant cost to human life as well as a big monetary cost to our justice system."
Russell, as coroner, sees heroin addiction's worst outcome. And he's seeing it much more than he would have expected during his first year on the job. In 2011, Kane County had 11 heroin deaths. Last year, there were 27. There have already been 16 heroin deaths this year, putting the county on pace to triple the 2011 number.
"I'm as much alarmed as the state's attorney and the sheriff about this," Russell said. "We're only halfway through the year."