Women Fight Lake County's Heroin Problem With Awareness
Take a Stand, a new group, wants parents and teens to realize the prevalence and danger of heroin and other substances; they hope knowledge will end the cycle of deaths.
Most parents aren’t aware of their child’s drug use when it first starts, according to Lea Minalga, a drug abuse expert. Five north-suburban women have embarked on an effort to bring awareness to parents of the problem of heroin and substance abuse in this community. They also want to raise awareness among young people about the real dangers of drugs
Ann Brody, 58, of Lake Barrington, said parents might know there is a problem, but the biggest mistake they make is when they believe their child could never fall to drug addiction. Drug abuse has no demographic boundaries yet affects all areas of Lake County.
Meanwhile, teens are curious about drugs and don’t think about the long-term effects of drug use, said Heather Riley, 24, of Lake Zurich.
“Teens don’t realize that using heroin, one time, they could become completely addicted. Or, one time could be the time that kills them,” she said.
Brody said she recently listened to a speaker, the father of a Stevenson High School student who died of a drug overdose.
“He said there were parties taking place where kids were emptying their parents’ medicine cabinets and emptying it all into a bowl for the kids to take,” Brody said. “Ten years ago, kids were just looking to see if there was beer in the garage.”
Take a Stand was formed in January with a Facebook page. Other founders include Shannon Brody, 21, of Palatine, and Ann’s daughter; Megan Hartigan, 23, of Hawthorn Woods; and Lindsey Dulian, 24, of Lake Zurich.
It initially was in reaction to the numerous drug deaths that have occurred in the community in recent years.
“It wasn’t shocking anymore when someone had passed away. It was becoming normal. That’s crazy; it was becoming almost OK,” Heather said.
In reaction to a recent death, Dulian posted on Facebook that something needs to be done. That post brought many comments and resulted in the formation of Take a Stand.
The group’s vision is to create a mass awareness among all families in the community of the abundance and availability of controlled substances such as heroin and cocaine. They hope this will make parents aware, deter youth from using, and create positive involvement in the Lake County area.
The group also raises funds for the Jeremy Stom Remembrance Foundation. Stom, a Hawthorn Woods resident and Stevenson High School graduate, died in April 2009, a week before his 19th birthday, after losing a battle with drug addiction.
The Jeremy Stom Remembrance Foundation sponsors outdoor summer camp programs for teens who are struggling.
The women have held two events so far, an assembly at Hackney’s in Lake Zurich to talk about drug abuse, and a fundraiser at the Brunswick Zone in Lake Zurich, which raised $820. They also have received two donations totaling $2,500. Organizers are applying for nonprofit status.
Take a Stand holds biweekly open houses at the TGI Fridays in Lake Zurich, during which the founders talk to people about drug awareness and pass out brochures.
“We’re overwhelmed by the support we’ve gotten in this short amount of time,” Brody said. Riley said Take a Stand’s Facebook fans range from teenagers to parents. Group organizers say Take a Stand isn’t only for people who have been directly affected by drug addiction.
“We’re trying to reach people who may be in denial. They look at their child and say, ‘They would never do that.’ Those are the people we want to target,” Brody said.
Take a Stand organizers are gearing up for a big event in June, an awareness walk at Paulus Park in Lake Zurich. The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 23 and will feature an awareness walk around the lake and four guest speakers — a psychologist, a member of the Jeremy Stom Remembrance Foundation, a person who lost a loved one to addiction and Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran.
“The Lake County coroner told us that from January last year to this March, there were 98 drug overdose deaths. Basically our goal is to see those numbers drop,” Riley said.