A dramatic increase in heroin abuse in DuPage County and Downers Grove has prompted the need for more community discussion, according to Downers Grove police.
The Village of Downers Grove announced Monday that the police department will hold a public forum, "Heroin in Our Community," on Oct. 25, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Village Hall, 801 Burlington Ave.
Downers Grove Deputy Police Chief Kurt Bluder said the forum was prompted by an increase in heroin use in the village and DuPage County as a whole. The epidemic has already incited public discussion in several nearby communities, including Naperville and Woodridge, he said.
"Nationally and locally, there has been an increase in heroin use. This, in turn, has led to an increase in heroin-related incidents," Bluder said.
Downers Grove does not keep specific arrest or overdose information comparing one town to the another, Bluder said, but it appears many DuPage County communities are seeing an increase in heroin-related crimes.
According to the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group, an agency that combats illicit drug trafficking, heroin seizures increased from 114 grams in 2008 to more than 1,800 grams in 2011.
Bluder said information from the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office indicates there have been 34 deaths related to heroin in 2012—four of which were in Downers Grove.
"Many police departments are trying to educate and engage the public theyserve in an effort to combat this problem," Bluder said. "Downers Grove is one such community, and staff wants to open up a dialogue with its residents."
DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin, who will speak at the Downers Grove event, said earlier this year that it's important for communities to hold public forums on the dangers of heroin.
“According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2011, more than 90,000 people over the age of twelve tried heroin for the first time,” Berlin said. “It would be incredibly naïve of us to think that none of those 90,000 first-time users live in our communities. The truth is, heroin doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t recognize geographical, social or economic boundaries. It claims men and women alike as its victims."
Other speakers at the Downers Grove event will include Police Chief Robert Porter; Kathleen Burke, Chief Executive Officer for the Robert Crown Center for Health Education; DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group (DUMEG) Director Matt Gainer; and members of the Downers Grove Police Department Tactical Unit.
Also attending is John Roberts, co-founder of HERO, the Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization. Roberts is a Homer Glen resident and retired Chicago police captain, who lost his 19-year-old son to a heroin overdose in 2009.
The following year, he founded HERO with Brian Kirk, another Homer Glen dad who lost his son to an overdose. Together, Roberts and Kirk have organized rallies and spoken at several forums to raise awareness of the heroin epidemic in suburban Chicago.
The format for the Downers Grove program will include a brief presentation by each speaker, followed by an opportunity to respond to questions from the audience.
Citizens may also request the National Child Safety Council “Confusions 11” booklet, a comprehensive guide to street drugs. The material is recommended for anyone that is not able to attend the forum.To request a copy of "Confusions 11" at no cost, contact Downers Grove Public Education Manager Marion Heintz at 630-434-5606 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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