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Westmont schools team with police to host forum on heroin 'epidemic'

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 10:03 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:43 a.m. CST

WESTMONT – The Westmont Police Department, Community Unit School District 201 and Maercker School District 60 are teaming up for a presentation on heroin to boost community awareness of the deadly drug.

The drug has become a growing problem in the western suburbs and DuPage County, according to Westmont Police Chief Tom Mulhearn.

“Other communities have had these presentations to try to get this information out. So we’re trying to bring awareness to ... Westmont residents,” he said.

“Heroin – The Suburban Secret” is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Jan. 22 in the auditorium of Westmont High School, 909 Oakwood Drive. The program will discuss heroin in DuPage County along with the drug’s effects on individuals, family and the community. It’s open to anyone, including students.

Mulhearn said there have been seven incidents related to heroin in Westmont in 2013 – six arrests and one that is pending a warrant. There was also an overdose case in unincorporated DuPage County near Westmont, according to Westmont Detective Michael Weibler.

Weibler said there were also two individuals who died with heroin in their system, though the drug was not the sole cause of death.

On a broader scale, DuPage County officials have called the drug’s growing use an epidemic.

In 2013, there were 46 heroin-related deaths in DuPage County, compared to the 2012 total of 38. Overdose victims this year were as young as 15 and as old as 64, though most were in their 20, according to the coroner’s office.

When presented with the opportunity to join forces with the Westmont Police Department, Superintendent Kevin Carey said CUSD 201 definitely wanted to be a part of this program.

“We want to be proactive and make sure we educate our parents and community on heroin and heroin addiction,” Carey said. “Anything we can do to keep students safe we want to be involved with.”

Carey said even though Westmont has been fortunate with the low number of drug-related incidents, the community can still be diligent with providing information and raising awareness.

“If you look at the headlines, we’re seeing more and more young people making poor choices when it comest to drug use with very tragic consequences as a result,” Carey said. 

Residents in attendance will also hear from guest speakers in DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin and DuPage County Coroner Dr. Richard Jorgensen.

Looking beyond the presentation, Carey said he hopes it helps to educate students and community members to make smarter decisions.

“I hope we raise people’s awareness about the seriousness of the use of heroin,” Carey said, “And that if there is someone who has knowledge of a fellow student with any type of drug [problem] that they’ll come forward, if not to police, then to a school official.”

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