Spend opioid lawsuit settlement on programs to help kids, state's attorneys say

When Illinois starts spending the $760 million it is getting from the nationwide settlement of lawsuits against prescription opioid distributors and a manufacturer, some of that money should be spent helping the youngest victims of the opioid crisis — babies and toddlers — some top prosecutors around the state say.

“Tragically, children have been hit especially hard by the opioid epidemic,” DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said Wednesday at a news conference held by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Illinois chapter.

“I want to stress how important it is a significant portion of these settlement funds are to be used to help young people who are in the crosshairs of this addiction. It is vital we help the youngest victims of the opiood crisis.”

Berlin was joined by Winnebago County State's Attorney J. Hanley and Rock Island County State's Attorney Dora Villareal.

Berlin joined Fight Crime: Invest in Kids about 24 years ago. “I have realized it is important to be not just reactive to crime but be proactive to do everything we can to prevent crime in the first place,” he said.

Fight Crime's Illinois Director Sean Noble said research shows early intervention in the lives of children born to, or living with, parents who have opioid abuse disorder can help prevent those kids from later having substance abuse issues and committing crimes.

Berlin said that on average nationwide, every 25 minutes a baby is born addicted to opioids. Neonatal abstinence syndrome rates grew 64% in Illinois from 2011 to 2017, according to Fight Crime.

NAS encompasses opioid and other drug exposure as a result of women taking drugs during pregnancy, and it can cause low birth weight, vision and hearing problems, jaundice and developmental delays, among other issues.

Fight Crime wants the state to spend more money on voluntary home-visiting programs run by the state, including Healthy Families, Maternal and Child Home Visiting (formerly called Parents Too Soon), and the Nurse-Family Partnership. The programs can help parents with substance abuse issues find treatment. The home visits reduce incidents of child abuse and neglect.

Fight Crime also wants more spending for early-intervention services, such as physical, occupational, speech and other therapies for babies and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities.

Villareal said that a 2020 analysis showed that 15,000 Illinois families lacked home-visiting help.

Hanley has personal experience with the effects of opioids on children — he and his wife adopted a baby with NAS. She has developmental delays, Hanley said.

“Young people born to addicted parents, like my adopted daughter, need support to ensure they can grow up to be healthy and successful,” he said.

The Illinois Remediation Fund will receive 55% of the money the state receives, and a council is being established to advise how to spend it. The rest of the money is to be divided between the state and local governments for prevention and remediation efforts.

More than 320 law enforcement leaders belong to the Illinois chapter of Fight Crimes: Invest in Kids.

Another day, another ruse

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart reports that another suburban resident fell victim to ruse burglars on Sept. 1.

It happened in the 0-100 block of North Indian Hill Road near Winnetka. A man approached the door of an 81-year-old woman's house and told her he was a construction worker. He said he needed to show her something outside and directed her away from the entrance. While she was outside, four other people entered the home.

An 82-year-old man in the home saw one of the offenders, who distracted him by saying he needed to check the kitchen sink because there was a broken water main.

The suspects left about 10 minutes later in a dark-colored SUV with an Xfinity logo on its side. They took jewelry.


• Michael McLean is the new police chief for Elmhurst. He has been the interim chief since April, when Chief Michael Ruth went on medical leave. Ruth died May 30. McLean worked part time for the Naperville Park District police, then joined Elmhurst in 2000. He became deputy chief in 2015. The city council approved his appointment Tuesday.

• Shawn Mazza was sworn in Tuesday night as Batavia's new police chief, replacing Dan Eul, who is retiring next week. Mazza has worked for Batavia for 23 years, starting as a patrol officer. He was a member of the Kane County Major Crimes Task Force and volunteers with Special Olympics Illinois.

• Several West and Northwest suburban police officers and lawyers will be honored Saturday night at Mothers Against Drunk Driving's Law Enforcement Recognition Dinner in Springfield. Among those receiving the “Hero” awards are Carol Stream officers Nicolas Bacidore, Daniel Stafiej, Brian Rudelich and Natalia Wajdowicz; Palatine officer Taylor Black; Buffalo Grove officer Michael Essig; Elgin officer Paul Dublinski; Illinois State Police troopers Daniel Pedreyra (District 2) and Stanislaw Smalec (District 15); attorney Michelle Moore Norton of Michelle Moore Law in Glen Ellyn; and Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Katy Flannagan.

Stafiej is receiving the Brian McMillen Award for career achievements. The Carol Stream Police Department is receiving the Murphy Leadership Award for its commitment to fighting DUIs.

Run for a reason

The DuPage County sheriff's office is hosting the second Running 4 Heroes 5K run on Sept. 18. It will be held in person (starting at the SSG. Miller Homeland Security Education building at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn) and virtually (walk or jog where you want, when you want). The $50 fee gets you a T-shirt. You also can buy a $10 raffle ticket for a chance to have a professional Christmas-lights display set up at your house. Visit to enter. Proceeds will go to, a charity started by a Florida teenager who runs, carrying a special flag, 1 mile whenever a police officer is killed on the job. The charity gives grants to injured first responders and helps buy equipment for police dogs, among other things.

New digs started

Downers Grove officials broke ground Tuesday for the village's new civic center, which will include a new police headquarters. The current police building was constructed in 1979. The new building will house the police, village offices, and the headquarters of Downers Grove Elementary District 58.

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