Leaders gather to discuss heroin prevention
Close to 100 leaders from Kane, Kendall, DuPage, DeKalb, Will, Lake and McHenry counties came together Friday afternoon at the Kane County Government Center in Geneva to try to get a handle on one of their more challenging issues.
The focus of the “Community Leadership Forum on Heroin Prevention,” sponsored by U.S Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-14th District), was to get these police chiefs, mayors, state’s attorneys, coroners, treatment facility experts, judges, hospital directors, state representatives, educators, advocates and even a few parents into the same room so they could share concerns and ideas on how to fight this epidemic.
“Real solutions to heroin abuse must come within our communities,” Hultgren said in his introductory remarks. “Addicts need transformations in their lives, not temporary fixes.”
Many of those who attended the forum were already on task forces at the federal, state and local levels. But too often, Hultgren noted, agencies work in silos and rarely get the opportunity to engage in discussions that include what works and what doesn’t work.
Keynote speakers for this event were Capt. Jeffrey Coady, regional administrator for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, who told the audience it’s going “to take vision” to reduce the impact of substance abuse from our communities. And that means “pooling resources in a collaborative outreach to share lessons and best practices.”
Success will only come, he said, when we begin “treating the whole person, not just the addiction.” And it means looking at the problem as a public health issue instead of a social problem.
Coady was followed by Kathie Kane-Willis, director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University, who spoke of the “strategic prevention framework” that, likewise, must include all aspects of the community, not just criminal justice and health professions, but schools, parents, businesses, churches, politicians, social organizations, and even needle exchange programs.
“The community does not work together,” she said. And that breakdown can be attributed to lack of funding, turf squabbles or simply not buying into the problem.
Barriers to prevention were among the many topics discussed when participants broke into four groups to share ideas and issues they were facing. Topics ranged from insurance issues to the lack of funding and beds to the stigma of addiction to duplication of efforts and lack of coordination between service providers.
Among the many solutions that were discussed: getting the anti-overdose drug naloxone, a big topic of conversation, into the hands of those who could use it to save lives; using social media more proficiently; and getting more doctors and educators on board.
“Everyone can add value,” said Kane-Willis. “We need to … think of creative ways to do things.”
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