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Fatal Heroin Overdoses Spur County Action

Last week, the county launched a public awareness campaign called Heroin Education Leads to Preventative Solutions, or Will County Helps. The group is working on a blueprint to provide information to schools and parents across the county.

A growing number of fatal heroin overdoses, and a rise in teen use in particular, has Will County officials reaching out to create awareness.

Last week, the county launched a public awareness campaign called Heroin Education Leads to Preventative Solutions, or Will County Helps. The group is working on a blueprint to provide information to schools and parents across the county.

“This is an issue of tremendous concern,” State Attorney spokesman Chuck Pelkie, said to Shorewood Patch. “This is no longer the junkie shooting up in a basement. High school teens have access to it and it is the drug of choice for teens from affluent families and communities.”

According to the county coroner, there were 28 heroin-related deaths in 2011. So far in 2012 there have been eight. Will County Helps has already issued a series of public service announcements, and plans are under way for a community forum and a youth rally in April.

Recently, law enforcement agencies have warned the public about an increased availability of heroin and a purer form that’s on the market.  Circuit Court Judge Ray Nash begins each local court hearing with a lecture on heroin. Many people are there for other drug charges, such as marijuana, but he wants to drive home the point. He tells stories of area parents in Mokena and New Lenox Township who lost their teenage children to heroin overdoses.  

“This isn’t the heroin of the ‘70s,” he said during a hearing last year. “This is much more dangerous.”

Following recent overdose cases where heroin may have been involved, District 230 administrators in Orland Park sent a letter to parents asking for their help and awareness. Robo calls also were made with principals reading the message.

The letter, sent by Supt. James Gay, asked parents to talk directly with their children about drug use. The letter mentioned resources on the district's website, as well as information on guidance departments when added help is needed.

Read “Talk About Heroin Now, Avoid an Epidemic Later”

Lincoln-Way High School District Supt. Larry Wyllie said the district hasn’t communicated with parents about the issue of heroin, though he’s aware it’s being used in the teen community.

“It’s a zero tolerance policy here,” Wyllie said. “If we know about it, they’re gone.”

The Will County group wants to speak at schools in the area to talk about the fatal impact of the drug. Commander Kevin Keegan of the Frankfort Police Department said heroin arrests have gone up in the Lincoln-Way area, but didn't have specific numbers.

What he's seen is that the taboo surrounding heroin use—the fact that you had to inject it—has gone away now that people are snorting it more and more. You don't get the same kind of high from it, but that use is becoming more popular in the area.

Because of this area's geographic location, with major feeder routes like U.S. Route 30 and Interstate 80, the village accounts for a lot of its drug arrests from people traveling through the area.

"Do we have any type of major type of dealing that I'm aware of? No," Keegan said. "But you can get it (heroin) from other surrounding areas."

The prevalence of heroin in the Will County area hasn't been discussed in the Frankfort Police Department, but it has been brought up at police chief and detective meetings, especially as it relates to how authorities can go about educating youth.

"A lot of it has to start from home," Keegan said.

—Joe Vince and Ben Feldheim contributed to this report.

anthony June 23, 2012 at 08:25 AM
sinister and diabolical better words.....
anthony June 23, 2012 at 08:27 AM
As the youth (lmao) points out... the criminality need to be taken out. Weed needs to be sold at stores with a license like beer, not in playgrounds... For those who wonder why or how here is a free sample line http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAqO80zM5t4
Damama June 24, 2012 at 07:02 PM
It isn't that the cops are to blame, it is just that it seems like in New Lenox, the police are more interested in revenue from tickets and DUI's rather than going to the neighborhoods and getting to know the kids that live there. As a long time resident, I have never seen one cop in this town take the time to step out of a car to talk to kids other than to issue warnings and tickets. New Lenox Mayor and police chief need to wake up and get the local cops to become more a part of the town other than issuing tickets and DUI's. Create more things for the youth to do in this town and educate the town more on this horrible epidemic. Yes, parents are the first step but even the best parents need help from the local police. I would like to see the police have more of a positive influence in the community like the police I remember growing up. They actually knew us by our names. I am sure the police would find out a lot more information from the youth if they were viewed as friendly and caring.
anthony June 25, 2012 at 04:21 AM
One or two bad apples can spoil a whole community with the only intention of personal gain....
Moonglow June 26, 2012 at 01:01 PM
A friend of mine at Stateville Prison OD'd on heroin. You'd think being in jail a person would not have access to drugs but they do at Stateville! The Warden's there need to check their own......... Correctional Officers! THAT'S how the drugs and other contraband are getting into Stateville. My friend told me that quite a few of the CO's are former (or current) gang-bangers! How the heck do criminals get State jobs as CO's? It's a travesty what goes on there as well!

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