“It is rare that a day goes by in this county that 911 isn’t contacted and EMS isn’t dispatched to respond to a suspected overdose.”
Those words, written by Kendall County Coroner Jacquie Purcell in a guest column we published recently, caught our attention and, hopefully, the attention of our readers. Continuing, Purcell reported that last year there were 13 drug-related overdose deaths in the county and, as of a few weeks ago, her office had already responded to a couple more since Jan. 1.
Days after we published Purcell’s column, SD308 hosted a public forum at Oswego High School that focused on the opioid abuse crisis and other issues that can lead to drug abuse among young people.
Presiding at the forum were a panel of experts that included Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis and representatives from the Oswego Police Department, Kendall County Court Services - Probation, Rush Copley Medical Center, Oswego Fire Protection District EMS, PATH (Positive Acceptance Toward Healing), the Kendall County Health Department, Rosecrance Health Network, Waubonsee Community College, and drug and alcohol counselors.
Though the forum was lightly attended, SD308 Superintendent Dr. John Sparlin said it helped spread awareness not only about opioid abuse but about the stressors, anxiety and other factors that lead to drug abuse when a child is younger. “This is a nationwide issue, and it’s something that, if you don’t believe it’s in your community, then you’re just being naive; it’s everywhere and anywhere,” he said.
Drug abuse is nothing new in Kendall County, but we’re pleased to see the county coroner and other local officials now calling attention to the problem amid a nationwide opioid abuse crisis. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 63 percent of the 52,404 overdose deaths in 2015 involved an opioid. Of those deaths, 25 percent involved heroin. Furthermore, the CDC has reported that the number of overdoses from prescription opioids and illegal drugs like heroin has have quadruped over the past two decades.
We can recall several years back being surprised to see heroin being listed among the drugs being seized by Kendall County area police in their daily press releases. We had thought the lethal dangers of heroin were widely known, thanks in large part to drug education programs that started in schools across the country decades ago. We also incorrectly thought that use of heroin had largely been curtailed to the roughest of urban areas.
But given the sharp rise in opioid abuse since the 1990s, it’s clear that a new effort must be made to inform people – especially young people – as to the dangers of heroin and other opioids. We’re hopeful that forums like the one held at Oswego High School last month should mark the start of that effort here in Kendall County.