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Forum seeks action plan to combat heroin addiction, deaths

Kane County Coroner Rob Russell speaks to a crowd at an Anti-Heroin Forum he co-hosted in Batavia. Russell is advocating for a community action plan among several groups to deal with the issue of heroin addiction and overdose death.
Kane County Coroner Rob Russell speaks to a crowd at an Anti-Heroin Forum he co-hosted in Batavia. Russell is advocating for a community action plan among several groups to deal with the issue of heroin addiction and overdose death.

BATAVIA – Heroin addiction in the suburbs is a scourge that can only be fought through partnerships and working together, several speakers said Tuesday at an Anti-Heroin Forum.

The forum was hosted by Kane County Coroner Rob Russell and Kane County Sheriff Don Kramer.

“One death is too many,” Kramer said. “It’s a tragedy that does not need to happen.”

Russell said new statistics show the average heroin death is now a non-Hispanic, white person age 18 to 44 who lives in the suburbs.

“That alone should change the way this country thinks about what a heroin user is,” Russell said. “We need a community action plan to handle this epidemic. It can’t be just me.”

About 75 people gathered at the Batavia VFW in Batavia to hear about heroin awareness, education and support for recovery from several speakers, including Caroline Kacena, a Naperville mother who lost her son to heroin in July 2012.

“We have been drawn together by our shared grief,” Kacena said. “No addict seeking recovery should ever die. We have a tool to keep our kids alive – to keep our loved ones alive – so they have another chance to recover. Some people say, ‘How many chances?’ My answer to that is, ‘As many as it takes.’ ”

Kacena said six months after her son’s death, she was trained to distribute naloxone or Narcan, a drug that will reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. The drug is administered by injection or as a nasal mist.

Kacena said parents are the first responders – finding their overdosed children in their bedroom or bathroom – and they should have Narcan in their medicine cabinet, available over-the-counter at drug stores.

“If we have Narcan, we could keep this from becoming a fatal illness,” Kacena said of heroin addiction. “It’s always going to be chronic and lifelong. You are always in recovery. But it does not have to be fatal.”

Kacena said people with allergies have epi-pens, people with diabetes have insulin.

“Nobody questions their right to life-saving medication,” Kacena said, to thunderous applause. “Truly, it’s the first line of defense.”

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