Illinois lawmakers have recently passes legislation to create a Young Adults Heroin Use Task Force to combat the growing use of heroin in Illinois.
The legislation, sponsored by State Sen. Kirk Dillard, targets what DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin and the Illinois State Crime Commission have called an "epidemic" in Illinois, according to a news release from Dillard's office.
Dillard said a recent study by Roosevelt University found that Chicago has the worst heroin problem in the country.
"We continue to see evidence that epidemic has spread to the suburbs,” he said.
While heroin-related deaths in Chicago have gone down, they are up by 200 percent in the suburbs. In DuPage County, there has been a 48-percent increase in heroin deaths since 2008.
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 (RCC) in Hinsdale, which recently created one of the world’s first heroin education and prevention programs. RCC 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,” said Burke. “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 RCC 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 that youth heroin is a problem in suburban counties among parents, schools and the co