Heroin Deaths Up in Winnebago County

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WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) – The number of drug related deaths continues to grow in Winnebago County. It’s an ugly truth local leaders have been trying to combat for years.

It’s no secret, drug use is on the rise here in the Stateline. The Winnebago County Coroner’s Office says its department has been busier than past years because more people are dying due to drugs and now local leaders are trying to spread awareness on one of the deadlier substances – heroin.

The number of drug-related deaths in Winnebago County has spiked 72% since 2011, approximately 52 more people dying in 2013 than in 2011 because of drugs. A big reason that number is growing is because of an increase in heroin use in the county, which is why local leaders are holding a heroin awareness summit tonight at Harlem High School in Machesney Park.

Jessica Gustin says she’s struggled with heroin for the last 6 years and is speaking out against the drug because she doesn’t want to see it ruin someone else’s life as it has hers.

“You’re gonna end up dead, any which way, you’re gonna end up dead. It ruins your life, it does, it absolutely ruins your life. I mean right now it might be all fun and games but you just don’t know until you hit rock bottom,” said Gustin.

There will be local officials, and state representatives at tonight’s summit and it will focus on the growing heroin problem amongst teens and young adults. They will talk about ways the community can combat the rise in heroin use and how addicts can get help.

The summit will start at 6:00 Wednesday night and is free and open to all members of the public.

MACHESNEY PARK (WIFR) -- In response to growing heroin use among teens and young adults in Winnebago County and the Rockford area, Representative John Cabello is teaming up with local officials and community service providers to educate parents and families about how to prevent and respond to this public health threat in our community.

“Heroin is a seriously dangerous and addictive drug that is being abused in our community at an alarming rate,” said Rep. Cabello. “The crucial step to solving this epidemic is community collaboration. This summit aims at bringing the community together to learn about how this drug is affecting families, finding treatment and raising questions on how we can break this abusive cycle.”

The Heroin Awareness Summit features a panel including Winnebago State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato, Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia, Loves Park Police Department, Rosecrance Behavioral Health Organization and Kathie Kane-Willis of Roosevelt University. The panelists will discuss various aspects of the local heroin crisis including prevention education, treatment resources, law enforcement response and analysis of the trends associated with the tragic local deaths resulting from a heroin overdose.

"Heroin is a poison that has infected our community under the disguise of being a non-lethal social drug,” stated Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato. “The Winnebago County States Attorney’s Office is committed to a collaborative effort to educate the community and eradicate the impact of heroin drug abuse in Winnebago County.”
“I applaud Rep. Cabello for hosting the summit on Heroin Awareness,” said Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia. “If the totals for traffic fatalities and homicides in Winnebago County were combined they still do not total the number of deaths from heroin, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and prescription drugs. We must be more aware of the tragedies this epidemic is causing to so many families in our community. No child, while growing up, ever talked or wanted to become a drug addict.”

The forum is free and open to the public. Parents, educators and students are all welcome and encouraged to attend. Event details are as follows:

Heroin Awareness Summit

• Wednesday, January 22, 2014
• Time: 6:00 PM
• Harlem High School – Auditorium
• 1 Huskie Circle, Machesney Park, IL 61115

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