Illinois lawmakers have created the Young Adults Heroin Use Task Force to combat the growing use of heroin in Illinois.
The legislation creating the task force was sponsored by Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-24th District, and it targets what the Illinois State Crime Commission have called an "epidemic" in Illinois.
While heroin-related deaths in Chicago have gone down, they are up by 200 percent in the suburbs. In DuPage County, where a recent bust netted 31 in a heroin-trafficking sting, there has been a 48-percent increase in heroin deaths since 2008. Here in Kane County, 27 heroin-overdose deaths were recorded in 2012, compared to 11 in 2011, seven in 2010 and 10 in 2009.
Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina told the Chicago Tribune last week heroin is a "steady" problem, with an estimated one to two heroin-related deaths per day.
The task force would be charged with conducting a study on the heroin use problems in Illinois high schools and suggesting programs that school administrators and teachers could use to react to the problem—including programs involving local law enforcement agencies, according to the release.
Dillard serves on the Board of the Robert Crown Center for Health Education in Hinsdale, which recently created one of the world’s first heroin education and prevention programs. Robert Crown CEO Kathleen M. Burke applauded the Illinois legislature’s decision to create a statewide task force to study the issue of heroin abuse among young people.
"We welcome the engagement of state lawmakers, school administrators, law enforcement, educators and parents, as we tackle the problem of heroin abuse in Illinois. For the past several years, we have seen this problem grow exponentially in our communities," Burke said. "We applaud lawmakers for creating this task force. We believe that as a community, we can adopt effective primary prevention strategies to reduce the hold heroin has on our young people."
Dillard said a study commissioned by Robert Crown Center, in partnership with the Reed Hruby Foundation and conducted by the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, found that more than one-third of those who participated in the study began using heroin while they were in high school. The same study found that there was a substantial lack of awareness among parents, schools and the community at large that youth heroin is a problem in suburban counties.