Meet the Palatine woman whose goal is to prevent drug-related deaths
Chelsea Laliberte's life was forever changed Dec. 15, 2008.
That's the day Laliberte, now 29, of Palatine, lost her brother, Alex, to a heroin overdose. He was 20 years old.
From that tragedy, she started Live4Lali.
"Living for him, living for Lali, which was his nickname, is now my life's mission, and Alex now can be a representative for, sadly, the 119 people every day who die of overdose and are going through this," said Laliberte, the organization's executive director and founder.
Live4Lali's ultimate goal is to prevent drug-related deaths. Laliberte and her volunteer team of 40 people use research, phone calls, training events, panel discussions, and mitigating and educational opportunities in the community.
"Live4Lali is a community support organization that is founded in drugs, and mental health predominantly, and we have basically become an awareness and education resource for people, who unfortunately, like the people who are at the forefront Live4Lali, were personally impacted," Laliberte said.
One key program for Live4Lali is training police departments on the use of Naloxone, or Narcan, which is used to counter the effects of opioid overdose. Laliberte holds training sessions and, in November, participated in a news conference announcing the initiative to train and equip police officers in 32 Lake County communities to administer the antidote.
In November, she and Steve Lunardi Jr. of Mundelein and Melissa Hobley of New York met with Grayslake Central High School students. The trio offered testimonies, teaching and skills-building exercises, and showed students how to handle drug-related situations.
Like Laliberte, Hobley is passionate about sharing her story.
"I lost a younger brother after a lifelong struggle with addiction. I have been personally touched by this epidemic," she said. "Working with Chelsea is inspiring and eye-opening and exhilarating and rewarding and exhausting because she has so many incredible ideas and endless energy."
Lunardi brings a story of addiction. He started smoking pot at 15 and has been battling heroin addiction since he was 18. He said the past two years have been good, and working with Laliberte helps.
"I have benefited from this entire process in my own recovery. The opportunity has allowed me to carry my message and help others, which in turns helps me and my recovery," Lunardi said.
Moving forward, Laliberte wants to expand her group's efforts beyond Lake and Cook counties. She would like to move into the Western and Southern suburbs, southern Illinois and the Midwest. Technology helps to reach further.
Starting in January 2015, the organization will begin the process of looking to create and open a resource center. Laliberte said the center would help organizers continue to provide extended levels of support to people.
"We'll be able to actually have a place where people can come and have a social experience, but also have an experience where they are able to get support in whatever their needs are," she said.