Denise Crosby: Mother’s ‘baby steps’ lead her to heroin prevention forum
The seriousness of the issue was reflected not just in the number of people who turned out Friday afternoon to talk about the heroin problem in our backyards, it also was in who those participants were.
Among those who gathered at the Kane County Government Center for U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren’s “Community Leaders Forum on Heroin Prevention” were top cops and state’s attorneys from a half a dozen counties, as well as coroners, judges, state representatives, county board members and Kane County Regional Superintendent of Schools Pat Dal Santo. Also on hand: a hospital representative from Cadence Health and a host of leading treatment experts and social service advocates.
Also in the audience were two parents who had lost their children to heroin. But after listening to keynote speakers Jeffrey Coady, regional administrator for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, and Kathie Kane-Willis, director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy-Roosevelt University, Chris Hadley decided not to sit in on the roundtable discussions when participants broke up into four tables.
“That’s OK,” said the Geneva woman, who took a seat in the back of the room after the groups had formed and were busy exchanging ideas and concerns. “I’m here … this is a start.”
Hadley lost her son Dillon to heroin three years ago. He was only 20 when he died, a sensitive, artistic and bright young man who watched his older brother, paralyzed from an accident while in the Army, get hooked on prescription drugs.
His brother got treatment. He beat his addiction and became a wheelchair athlete, Hadley told me. But she had “no idea” her youngest was using heroin until she went into his room that morning in October and found him dead.
“The coroner,” she said, “told me he had probably only been using for a short time, for about a month,” when he overdosed.
Hadley said she spent the last three years coming to terms with her loss. She continued going to her therapist after developing an anxiety disorder. She got involved with Compassionate Friends, as well as a separate grief support group for parents who had lost kids to drugs.
It has been a long and incredibly painful journey. And although her grief will never disappear, she is now ready to do more — to extend her hand and heart to others. To get involved — be part of the solution instead of only a victim.
“I think I have reached the point where I can talk to parents and students without becoming a blubbering mess,” she said with a small smile.
Hadley said she learned about Hultgren’s forum that morning on Facebook. “I thought, ‘Why not go and see what it is about?’ ”
“Baby steps,” she said, when I suggested her expertise would be very much appreciated.
“For now, I’m just taking baby steps.”