'It's overwhelming': Why Arlington Heights funeral home is leading opioid crisis training
Drivers who pass by Glueckert Funeral Home on Arlington Heights Road this week will notice a screen of netting with 2,155 individual purple ribbons tied to it, representing the number of people projected to die in Illinois this year from an accidental drug overdose.
"Each one of those ribbons is a person, their family and friends," said John Glueckert Jr., owner of the Arlington Heights funeral home. "It's overwhelming."
Glueckert and his family have been making funeral arrangements for more and more deaths resulting from opioid overdoses -- 10 in 2017 and already eight this year -- prompting them to host a series of training sessions for the public on how to properly administer naloxone, the opioid-reversal medication.
Two training sessions were held Monday at the funeral home, 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road, with others planned at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, and at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday.
The week of events culminates with a candlelight vigil from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, at Lake Arlington -- on what is International Overdose Awareness Day -- to remember those lost to an overdose.
"It just got to the point where we felt we needed to do something about it," Glueckert said.
The free sessions, conducted by Glueckert and other funeral home staff members, take about 45 minutes and don't require an appointment. Attendees learn how to recognize signs of an overdose and the steps to properly administer the lifesaving antidote.
Each person who completes the education session gets a vial of the medication courtesy of Live4Lali, an Arlington Heights-based nonprofit that also hosts training sessions throughout the year.
It's the same advocacy group that ran naloxone training sessions in January 2016 during the wake of Russell Eilrich, who died from an overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl.
The 21-year-old's parents, Denise and Tim, wanted to make sure family and friends were educated, in an effort to prevent other deaths.
"That just sticks with me," Glueckert said. "It's raised my awareness around this crisis."