Naperville leaders put out the call to fight drug, alcohol abuse at home
When Naperville parents are hosting beer parties for their kids, "just say no" doesn't cut it.
A group of Naperville police, school principals, elected officials and other advocates have issued a challenge: Take responsibility for keeping Naperville children drug-free.
"Prevention is a process," said Joyce Lohrentz, president of Community Against Substance Abuse. "It's not an event like a birthday party. It begins at our kitchen tables."
Recovering drug addicts, high school principals, an emergency room doctor and the Naperville police chief spoke at a "Call to Action" meeting Thursday at city hall, launching a campaign to heighten awareness of drug abuse in Naperville.
Each year, Edward Hospital treats 400 patients suffering from drug abuse who are younger than 17, said Edward pediatrician Martine Nelson. Of those who are admitted, half require intensive care, she said.
In June, principals of Naperville-area high schools sent letters home to parents. The letters warned parents could face charges if they serve alcohol to minors at a party.
In the following months, Naperville police busted a string of parties, arresting hundreds of teenagers, several adults and publishing their names in newspapers.
"We have changed the way we handle party calls in this community," police Chief David Dial said. "We no longer let anyone drive away. We are surrounding them and taking everyone we can into custody.
"It is a definite change in attitude by the Naperville police, and we plan on continuing."
Yet parents are often convinced their children could not be involved, Naperville North High School Principal Ross Truemper said.
"These kids think they're indestructible, even at the funerals of their friends," Truemper said. "I can tell you from watching at a very close perspective, the wolf is at the door. The best families, the most spiritual families, are not exempt."
St. Charles residents Bob and Pat Sherry say they ate dinner as a family every night, hosted scout troops, coached softball teams and had a close relationship with their kids. Yet all three of their children had experimented with drugs and alcohol by high school.
Their son Matt began drinking in eighth grade. By high school, he had begun stealing to support a heroin habit. He stole his parents checks, jewelry, the neighbor's cars.
"At first we figured we could fix the problem ourselves and no one needed to know," Pat Sherry said. "But you can't."
Matt eventually recovered through Kane County's drug court program, which combines treatment with monitoring, and the Sherrys work in a support network called the Mom Squad.
Mayor George Pradel urged local residents to unite in a similar effort.
"We used to think of addicts being on skid row in a big city," Pradel said. "But they're in our homes, they're our neighbors, they're our children. It has to start with our homes and your families."
CASA plans three additional meetings where residents can learn about drugs and alcohol in the community. They are scheduled at 7 p.m. Nov. 14 at Safety Town, in front of police headquarters at 1350 Aurora Ave.; at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 in the cafeteria of city hall, 400 S. Eagle St., and at 7 p.m. Jan. 4 in the lower level meeting rooms of city hall.