A second “Heroin in your neighborhood forum” wasn’t originally scheduled, but organizers planned a Minooka forum immediately after the first one in Coal City because the community requested it.
“We were immediately asked to hold this forum in Minooka,” State’s Attorney Jason Helland said. “Why? Because heroin is cheap, readily available and often has fatal consequences.”
About 75 community members came to Thursday’s forum at Minooka High School’s Central Campus to hear about heroin abuse. Panelists discussed the side effects, treatment and the penalties for possession and distribution.
Speakers also informed those in attendance what to look for if they suspect heroin use and addiction, as well as what to do if they suspect someone is using.
Minooka Police Chief Justin Meyer said they haven’t had any drug deaths this year but Minooka had a couple of deaths last year from heroin overdose.
“We know others from our community have been arrested in Cook County,” Meyer said. “We get reports from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.”
Meyer said there recently was an arrest by the Will County Cooperative Police Assistance Team at Interstate 55 and Route 6, where a kilogram of heroin was seized with a street value of $125 million.
Helland said being on the Interstate 80 and I-55 corridors Grundy County results in many drugs traveling through, but usage is greatest in the south east corner of the county, which includes Braceville and Gardner.
Wilmington High School students Martina Flowers and Liz Palkoska attended with Wilmington Anti-Drug Community Action team leader Christina Dyer.
As they toured a makeshift teen girls bedroom, they were able to see some of the signs to look for, and how drugs and alcohol are hidden.
“The hairbrush was surprising,” Flowers said about a prop in the bedroom that showed how needles can be hidden.
Palkoska said most of the hiding places in the room were surprising to her because she wouldn’t have thought about using every day items in the way a drug user sees them.
Dyer said she offered a similar bedroom scene in Wilmington for parents to attend, but the students weren’t able to attend. She felt bringing the two student action team members was important as a direct line to their peers.
“Some kids may get ideas from this type of room,” Dyer said. “But the youth is the first line of defense, they may or may not know what their friends are doing.”
Helland said in researching statistics for the forum there was some surprising news about usage even in teens.
“2013 research stated nearly four out of five teens used prescription pain pills first,” Helland said. “Vicodin, oxycontin are the real gateway drugs to heroin.”
Helland said the solution to the problem is treatement, not incarceration, and the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s office will help parents drug test their children at anytime.
“We offer a drug test kit,” Helland said. “Come to our office and we’ll help.”