'Exposing the Heroin Highway' series continues
Following the success of an educational forum tackling Kane County's opioid epidemic, law enforcement officials are expanding the speaking series to Aurora.
On Wednesday, Sept. 26, a panel of experts will discuss the burgeoning drug trade in Kane County in a talk titled "Exposing the Heroin Highway."
Kane County Sheriff Donald Kramer is taking a proactive stance on rising heroin, opioid and fentanyl abuse.
The Sheriff's Office held a similar forum a few weeks prior in Elgin, and is tailoring the event for Aurora with local speakers. Sheriff Kramer will provide opening remarks and offer a snapshot of how the epidemic has grown in Kane County.
"We're working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, neighboring cities' law enforcement units, treatment centers, recovery advocates, and schools to reduce the stigma that faces this crisis that has already claimed several lives in Kane County," said Kramer.
So far this year, there have been 31 opiate-related deaths in the county, which includes heroin and fentanyl.
In 2017, 68 people died from opiate-related use, according to Kane County Coroner Robert Russel.
According to Lt. Brian McCarty, the Sheriff's Office is making it a priority to help family members identify the type of drug their loved one might be using.
"The Sheriff's Office recently purchased 300 test kits. The test kits will be passed out for free to anyone who has a teenager in their household who wants to test their child for nine different types of drugs," Lt. McCarty said.
"Not only is it the heroin highway we're concerned about, but it's preventing behavior that could lead to more dangerous drugs."
He added, "This is just another tool in our toolbox."
The county's drug task force has a three-prong approach to the opioid epidemic: enforcement, treatment, and education.
This forum is a way to educate teachers, parents, the public, and other law enforcement entities of warning signs and prevention methods.
Guest speaker Jim Scarpace is the executive director of the Gateway Foundation, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Aurora.
He works with the sheriff's office to divert offenders from incarceration and steer them toward treatment.
His goal is to reduce the stigma and shame associated with the disease.
"We'll be talking about understanding what opioid use disorder is from a medical perspective, which will reduce the mischaracterization of addiction as a moral failing or character flaw," Scarpace said. "This will allow more people to come forward and ask for help. I will also review current treatment options and innovative approaches."
Scarpace says that although he's seeing deaths in record numbers, there's hope.
"We need to rally together as a community to see this illness for what it is, a medical disease of the brain that can be treated," Scarpace said.
"If we can help people feel as if they can come forward and ask for help, we can then get them the treatment they need to find and sustain recovery from this illness and, in turn, save countless lives."
The Sept. 26 "Heroin Highway" talk will culminate with a question-and-answer session. It is free and open to the public starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Santori Public Library, 101 S. River St. in Aurora. Registration is not required.
Upcoming topics in the sheriff's series include "Suicide Signs & Resources" and "Family Safety & Domestic Violence" in September and October.
A similar community event was held Thursday, Sept. 13, at Kaneland High School in Maple Park. Addiction expert and recovery advocate Tim Ryan spoke to community members and hosted a question-and-answer session about the opioid crisis.