Grundy County residents are encouraged to attend Wednesday’s rescheduled forum about heroin and its affect on youth.
“It’s cheap, highly addictive and it’s in our area,” Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland said of heroin. “We can’t turn a blind eye to it.”
The forum is scheduled for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and will be in the auditorium at Coal City High School. The forum was previously scheduled for Nov. 20, but was canceled after the Nov. 17 tornado struck Coal City and Diamond.
Topics discussed will include misuse and abuse, dangerous side-effects, treatment, counseling and penalties for possession or distribution of heroin.
In attendance to educate the public will be Helland, a panel of experts, speakers Pat Spangler and John Roberts, and special guests state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, state Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, and Ray Nash, Circuit Court Judge for the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Will County.
“We’ve worked really hard on this event and have a great lineup of professionals coming to talk,” said Paula Goodwin, prevention specialist for the Grundy County No Tolerance Task Force.
A mock-up of a teen’s bedroom, “In Plain Sight,” will be set up at the forum for public viewing. As attendees walk through it, they will learn about common danger signs and paraphernalia that might be hiding or in plain view in a teen’s bedroom, Goodwin said.
The event is not intended for teens and children, but is targeted at parents, officials and other adults from the area. Helland said they want to inform the public so they have the knowledge they need to recognize signs of heroin use.
“The content of the information is definitely not for young people,” Goodwin said. “We don’t want any of the teens coming because if they haven’t heard about certain things, we don’t want to be the ones to educate them about it.”
Helland said one person in Grundy County already has died from a heroin overdose since the beginning of the year.
Last year, the county had numerous overdoses but few actually resulted in fatalities. Helland said he thinks that statistics could change if heroin use keeps increasing throughout the area.
“Will County has seen a dramatic increase in heroin activity and heroin-related overdoses,” Helland said. “It seems it is coming into Grundy County through that I-55 corridor.”
Helland said the majority of heroin cases he sees are out of the southeast portion of Grundy, near Coal City and Braidwood.
Grundy County Sheriff Kevin Callahan said local law enforcement has found that Grundy residents are driving to Cook and Will counties to purchase heroin.
“I would say it’s a countywide problem,” Callahan said. “I wouldn’t call it an epidemic, but it’s definitely become a major concern.”
Callahan said he thinks heroin has taken the place of crack cocaine, and suspects that many people who were addicted to prescription drugs, such as Oxycontin have now ventured into heroin use because the drugs produce similar effects.
“People who were using those drugs and can’t get them anymore, for whatever reason, are turning to heroin because it’s everywhere,” Callahan said. “The problem is it’s so available, so inexpensive and so addicting.”
At the forum, Helland will inform attendees about how the drug court in Grundy County handles the heroin problem.
Helland said lawmakers have found prison is not always the best option for heroin addicts because it doesn’t cure them of their addictions, leading them to re-offend once they are released.
“The dealers are sent to prison and the addicts are provided with treatment. We want them to be contributing members of society and lead a better lifestyle,” Helland said. “Currently, we have 18 participants in the program.”
Speaker John Roberts, a retired captain for the Chicago Police Department, will talk about how his own son died due to heroin use.
Roberts and a panel of experts will hold a question and answer session.
“Information is power, and people need to know what to look for,” Helland said. “Residents can be vigilant and alert the local police.”
If You GoWhat: Heroin in your Neighborhood forumWhere: Coal City High School AuditoriumWhen: Wednesday, Jan. 15 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.Cost: Free