WILMINGTON – About 100 people attended a community forum Thursday night at Wilmington Middle School to address heroin.
Although the audience consisted of mostly adults, education was what many community leaders feel is the key to ending the drug’s destructive grip.
“Our children are intelligent, and it’s up to us to give them the information they need to make good choices,” Will County Executive Larry Walsh said.
“Heroin has become the drug of choice. It’s an equal-opportunity killer ... and it is your worst nightmare as a parent,” Judge Ray Nash said. Nash said southwestern Will County has the highest heroin deaths per capita in the county.
Among the initiatives discussed was a program developed by the Robert Crown Center that is expanding to other schools in Will County. Nash said last year’s 77 heroin deaths shattered the prior record, but only four of those deaths were people younger than 21.
“It’s nothing to brag about, but it is a positive,” Nash noted. “If we can get to the kids early and raise their awareness, there’s a better chance.”
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said law enforcement’s goals are to “put the hammer down” on dealers but get help for addicts although there is still debate on the best methods to provide that help.
“Some police departments want you to bring in your drugs and they’ll get you help ... into treatment. It’s well-intentioned, but that’s a dangerous situation for everyone involved,” Glasgow said.
The state’s attorney has concerns with police instead of prosecutors determining whether someone should be charged, disposal of drugs that are turned in and the liability of volunteers who transport addicts to rehab.
Glasgow has asked state legislators to sponsor a bill that will clarify the civil rights of someone possessing drugs that is interested in treatment and protect police programs from lawsuits.
A speaker identified in the program as “Isabelle” is going through the drug court program for the second time.
“I took the program seriously [the first time], but I didn’t take my recovery so seriously,” the young woman said. “I moved back with my family and got a job, but I didn’t go to meetings or keep in contact with [recovery resources].”
Isabelle started using heroin again three years ago and was unable to quit even when she became pregnant. Despite several arrests and stints in jail, she couldn’t break out of her downward spiral.
“It’s not that I didn’t love my child. The way heroin affects your mind – there is no decision making,” she said.
Isabelle said recovering from heroin addiction is a slow and ongoing process, but the resources Will County has are saving lives.