Working Together to Combat Heroin and Opiate Abuse
In 2013, a constituent of mine suffered a terrible tragedy: his 17-year old daughter died of a heroin overdose. His shock still lingers as he mourns her death following a sleep-over at a friend’s house.
His story, told to me and countless others across the 14th Congressional District, is unfortunately not unique.
According to HHS, Americans above age 12 who used heroin rose from 373,000 in 2007 to 669,000 in 2012. In fact, more people are using it than at any time since the 1970s. And 80 percent of heroin addicts are younger than 26. Most of the collar counties have seen dramatic increases in heroin-related deaths in the past decade.
This is right here in our backyard, and we must face it head-on.
But there is hope, and many success stories told and untold by parents, teachers, classmates, law enforcement, doctors, and many others who are concerned about this epidemic. I believe the real solution to tackling heroin and prescription drug abuse must come from within our communities.
Please use this page as a resource as we work together to combat heroin and opiate abuse across the 14th District and our state.
Our community has made some good progress fighting this plague since our Community Leadership Forum on Heroin Prevention in 2014 (see below), but more work needs to be done. In the summer of 2016 I brought together issue and patient advocates, law enforcement, treatment centers and government officials to discuss where we are, what’s working and where we go from here. I was encouraged by their insight on the state of the problem and what we can do at the local, state and federal levels to more effectively address opioid addiction.
Following is “Persisting in the Fight,” an update to my 2014 Community Action Plan to Combat Heroin and Opioid Abuse (further below) which includes recent success stories from the 14th Congressional District and recommendations for local, state and federal lawmakers to more effectively tackle drug abuse and treat addiction.
On March 7, 2014 I convened a Community Leadership Forum on Heroin Prevention at the Kane County Government Center in Geneva, Illinois. This timely forum brought together a diverse array of experts and local and state leaders —including law enforcement, drug courts, elected officials, educators, treatment providers and recovery centers—to share resources and ideas to tackle the growing threat of heroin addiction and opioid abuse in northern Illinois. Participants represent all seven of the collar counties, including Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage, Kendall, DeKalb and Will counties.
At the forum, we came together as a single community to exchange ideas about what is working, what needs improvement and how our combined resources can be a force multiplier in fighting the growing epidemic in our communities. My goal was to create a collaborative environment where participants would share information, discuss concerns and recommend strategic initiatives that leadership can implement to combat the heroin epidemic in our communities.
Participants divided into breakout tables where we discussed what barriers to partnerships existed and what improvements should be made in the following areas:
- Primary prevention—Focus on preventing or delaying the initiation of substance use.
- Secondary prevention—Treating substance abuse and stopping the regular use of drugs.
- Tertiary prevention—Lifetime management and overdose prevention.
The participants then identified next steps they could take in addressing the barriers, which individuals and organizations can work together, where the next steps should happen and when.
We want to establish a prevention framework—one that looks at outcomes and focuses on how to get there—that stretches and leverages our resources in the 14th District and beyond the collar counties throughout Illinois.
Below is a summary of the forum and a community action plan. This includes additional input and revision from the participants, as well as the community as a whole. I trust this action plan will work for our community and that all interested parties are collaboratively pursuing it. We want to keep developing and modifying a model our community can and must pursue to combat heroin and opioid abuse together. We must continue to break down barriers in our communities and make a lasting impact for the good.