Hultgren: Heroin prevention plan’s ‘working draft’ ready for next stage
I’m not in the habit of saying glowing things about politicians — who is these days? — but kudos to Randy Hultgren, our Congressional representative from the 14th District, for doing it the right way.
I have no idea how much the congressman is thinking about votes as he continues to head up an impressive community-based approach to combat heroin. But he seems to truly understand this drug’s devastation ... and he seems determined to do more than many politicians.
How can you not get involved, he asks, after listening to so many stories from grieving parents … like Ken Chiakas, who lost his 17-year-old daughter, an honor roll student at Crystal Lake South High School, a year ago to an overdose.
How can you listen to a father speak so heartfelt about how “I thought I did everything right” and not call heroin abuse one of the most pressing issues facing our communities?
“We’ve all got to be in this fight,” Hultgren insists.
That’s why in March the Congressman brought together an impressive array of political, law enforcement, judicial, medical and education leaders, as well as addictions experts and other activists, from Kane, DuPage, Kendall and four neighboring counties to a round-table discussion on how to fight heroin.
And on Monday he presented the “working draft” that came out of that forum, also asking for the community’s help in getting it to the next stage.
This prevention plan is divided into three areas: primary (stopping the initial use of heroin and opiates); secondary (treating abuse and stopping the regular use of drugs); and tertiary (lifetime addiction management and stopping overdoses).
“This is a first step,” he promised. “We want to be held accountable to keep this moving forward” … but we “also must get the community involved.”
That’s why Hultgren is putting this “working draft” on his website at https://hultgren.house.gov/heroin. And he’s inviting forum participants, as well as the community at large, to take a close look at it, then send edits, suggestions and other comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for input is 5 p.m. April 12. His office will use the next two weeks to get as many people as possible to respond, he said. The plan is to put together a final statement and then an action plan, hopefully by this summer so that the education components can kick in before school starts.
Hultgren promised to look at the federal government’s role in policy and funding. But the real work, he insists, must come at the state and local level where those in education, health and social services, as well as not for profits, can share best practices.
“What is working in one county, one school can also work in other places,” he insisted. And we “might be in the right spot to get that information shared.”
“If one life is saved,” Hultgren added, “it is worth it.”
Chiakas, who was at the March forum and again at Hultgren’s side when he presented this working draft, agreed. He doesn’t want other parents to go through the “complete devastation” he’s experiencing since losing his daughter Stephanie a year ago.
“It is the worst thing you can imagine,” said Chiakas, who sits on a heroin-prevention task force in McHenry County.
“One hundred people die a day in the U.S. alone,” he said, adding that he and other grieving parents can’t become “a one-man Army” in this fight.
“And you won’t,” promised Hultgren. “This doesn’t feel hopeless. Good things are happening.”