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Hultgren on heroin prevention: ‘A top priority’

Published: Monday, March 31, 2014 9:32 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 6:52 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – Following up on a heroin-prevention forum that he hosted last month, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, is seeking ideas to help move forward with a community-based approach to deal with heroin, addiction and the deaths the drug has caused.

During a meeting Monday at his Geneva congressional office, Hultgren presented a 19-page working draft action plan.

The meeting was with reporters and a father who lost a daughter last year to a heroin overdose.

Hultgren said the 19-page document will be posted online at http://hultgren.house.gov/heroin. He welcomed anyone with ideas, suggestions or edits to send them to coalitions Director Susan Russell at susan.russell@mail.house.gov by 5 p.m. April 17.

“Recognize, this is a first step,” Hultgren said. “We had a great meeting on March 7 … this was a very helpful event for me, full of information. The power, really, was in the roundtable discussions, where we broke up into groups and had people come up with ideas. And that is what we summarize in here, just some tentative action plans from the event.”

Hultgren said he hoped to involve doctors, hospitals and insurance companies in further discussions of how to curb heroin use in the region. About 60 officials from Kane, McHenry, DeKalb, DuPage and Lake counties participated in the March 7 forum. 

The Chicago metropolitan area, including Kane County, is grappling with what law enforcement and prevention advocates call an “epidemic” of heroin use, officials said.

“We talked about three parts of this problem. First, is recognizing that it’s more than a heroin problem; there is a drug problem out there, and – oftentimes – it begins with prescription drugs that are abused,” Hultgren said. “And because of the high cost of prescription drugs, we are seeing people use an alternative – heroin – which is a deadly choice.”

Hultgren said he wants to do everything possible to educate the public about heroin and its dangers; support those affected by drug abuse; and provide lifetime care as part of overall treatment, recognizing that heroin addiction is a lifelong struggle.

“We want to push back and make sure that no one – whoever, no matter what the age is – makes that choice to use heroin even once,” Hultgren said. “We want to be held accountable to keep this moving.”

Hultgren said people who have opinions and ideas should share them, because he is going to use that information to create a final action plan by this summer, so it will be in place for the start of school in the fall. 

“This is a top priority,” Hultgren said. “If even one life is saved, this is worth it.”

Ken Chiakas of Des Plaines said his 17-year-old daughter, Stephanie, died March 13, 2013, of a heroin overdose in Crystal Lake.

“I’m here to tell you – you never want to face what I have. It’s the worst thing you could imagine in your life,” Chiakas said. “She was an everyday great kid, awesome personality, honor roll student at Crystal Lake South. I’m just completely devastated, and [I’m] making it a lifelong effort to speak out and spread awareness to save lives.”

Chiakas said he found his daughter had been addicted for possibly six months, and they tried to help her with rehab – but there were no beds available at the time.

Chiakas said he started his own organization, Save R Children.

The organization’s website is www.saverchildren.org. 

“We are still working on building it up,” Chiakas said. “I do have a little bit of information on there ... a prevention guide to teach parents about drugs.”

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