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Task force targets heroin use

County agencies form group focusing on better drug enforcement

Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, March 23, 2013 7:10 a.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office will seek community input in devising ways to curb heroin use in the county under a new task force announced Friday.

The new Heroin Education/Enforcement Action Taskforce, called HEAT, will combine minds from county agencies such as the Coroner’s and state’s attorney’s offices with those from local police departments and health service providers to work toward stemming the heroin epidemic in the county, sheriff officials said.

There were 122 overdose deaths in the county from 2009 to 2012, according to the coroner’s office. Of those, 52 involved heroin.

Undersheriff Andrew Zinke credited a Sunday Northwest Herald report that detailed the elevated trend of local residents overdosing on heroin, a drug that can cause both a euphoric and drowsy state, as a motivation for forming the task force.

“It’s a major topic in the community, and it is getting the media attention it deserves,” Zinke said. “It is now the law enforcement [community’s] responsibility to make sure we are doing the best we can.”

As investigators continue to look into the recent death of a 17-year-old Crystal Lake South High School student who was facing heroin-related charges, they also have begun rethinking policies and enforcement strategies to deal with the growing problem in the area.

Zinke called the task force a short-term group that will collaborate with the community and make recommendations on improving the county’s heroin enforcement strategies.

Staff from the Coroner’s and State’s Attorney’s offices, Centegra Health System, the Regional Superintendent of Schools Office, and the county drug court will be on the task force.

The group is set to first meet in April, when members will develop a mission statement and a formal list of objectives, Zinke said.

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