Editorial: Suburbs take aim in the heroin battle
DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen saw the after effects, counted the bodies and made sure the public was aware of the reality.
With 31 confirmed heroin overdose deaths so far and another four suspected, he reported the county is on pace to set a dubious record -- the most deaths by heroin in a year. At one point there were 15 heroin overdose deaths in 17 days. Last year there were 38 deaths total, the most ever.
"We've got something going on here. We're just shocked. This is way out of the norm," he said.
But no one should be shocked anymore. Daily Herald reporters have chronicled the problems of heroin in the suburbs for more than a decade. We have to move beyond shocked. We have to move beyond reciting statistics. We have to act. And act now.
Thankfully, that's happening. Just a quick search of Daily Herald files in the last few weeks is proof of that. To wit:
• 31 people were charged in a heroin ring bust on Wednesday in Cook and DuPage counties;
• The youth ministry at a Bartlett church held a forum Sunday to raise awareness of heroin use;
• Rallies have been held or are being held this week and next in Carpentersville, Elgin, Lake in the Hills and Schaumburg as part of an effort called Stop Overdose Illinois;
• A fundraiser was held Aug. 17 in Grayslake to benefit drug overdose prevention and education initiatives. It was named after a Buffalo Grove 20-year-old who died of a heroin overdose in 2008;
• A state task force, at the urging of a Lake County lawmaker, is being formed;
• A Carpentersville mom, who also lost a son to heroin in 2008, has spent the last six months working on an Overdose Memorial Quilt. It memorializes 100 people -- all young -- who have fallen victim to the clutches of this dangerous drug.
"People will say to me, 'My child's an addict, what should I do?' " said Terri Dudar, the quilt maker. "What I say to them is, educate yourself (about the drug). Then you'll know what's happening, and you'll know what your child is going through. It really opened my eyes."
Parents must educate themselves and work together with the schools to get the word out to other parents and to students. Churches, social service agencies and community groups all need to put this topic at the top of their priority list. And the police and prosecutors, as the arrests this week demonstrate, need to work tirelessly to remove the people preying on our youth.
"We have a heroin epidemic in this county," DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin said in announcing the arrests. "(The) charges send a message to those drug dealers who are peddling ... the poison that is killing the citizens of this county. ... Those drug dealers will be caught, they will be arrested, they will be charged and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Strong words, strong actions. The same could and should be said and done in every county, every community, every corner of the suburban area.