ADDISON – On April 24, the Addison community spent hours testifying in front of the Bipartisan Task Force on the Heroin Crisis at the request of state Rep. Dennis Reboletti.
During a four-hour hearing at Addison Village Hall, 12 speakers representing all sides of the issue from law enforcement to treatment centers shared their perspectives on the heroin epidemic.
“I think we want to come together with a comprehensive plan of attack,” Reboletti said after the hearing.
As vice chairman of the task force, Reboletti requested that Addison – the home of his 45th District office – host the hearing.
The task force formed in response to the growing number of heroin users and overdoses in the state. In particular, it is concerned with the problem as it relates to teens and young adults.
DuPage County saw a record number of heroin-related deaths in 2013, and Reboletti wanted to make sure the task force met in his home county.
Addison’s Director of Police Timothy “Bill” Hayden, Serenity House Counseling Services President Lisa Labiak, a pair of board members from the LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation in Addison, and others in the area testified in front of the task force panel.
“What we were trying to focus our attention on was funding for extended residential care,” Labiak said after the hearing.
She explained that Serenity House in Addison provides substance abuse treatment and support. Two services offered are a 90-day treatment program and a transitional housing program that can last up to two years.
“Treatment works, and the longer you can keep an individual in treatment the more successful they will be,” Labiak said.
She said Serenity House has seen firsthand the growth in heroin use throughout the area.
Ten years ago, less than 18 percent of Serenity House clients identified heroin as their primary drug of abuse. Today, that number is greater than 78 percent, Labiak said.
She’s also seen the average client age drop significantly during the past decade from the mid-40s to the mid-30s, which Labiak credits to the increase in 18- to 24-year-olds using heroin.
After the hearing, Reboletti said Serenity House illustrates the need for funding for treatment facilities. Since 2009, the facility has been operating without eight of its 32 men’s Extended Residential Care beds because of funding cuts.
“You continue to operate with more and more clients and less and less resources,” Reboletti said.
Labiak’s testimony on April 24 included support of Illinois Senate Bill 2586, which would require a state working group to identify needed services and financing strategies for developing those services, including substance abuse treatment.
“Right now our funding is dependent on the state of the state,” Labiak said.
She hopes the bill would provide a more sustainable funding option for Serenity House and other treatment facilities.
As the father of a sixth-grader, Reboletti believes schools will play an important role in changing heroin use.
“That education is going to have to begin in the classrooms for young people,” Reboletti said.
Reboletti and other Republicans support two statewide heroin education initiatives including one that promotes the “Good Samaritan” law, which encourages people to call 911 on behalf of someone overdosing. The other spreads awareness about the dangers of children and teens gaining access to medications, especially opiates.
While Reboletti said most heroin still comes to Illinois through Chicago, it’s not just a suburban problem. He said downstate prosecutors are seeing the drug more, and gangs are now using rural areas to store money.
The state representative hopes to use gang money and assets seized by law enforcement for education and rehabilitation.
The task force is faced with plenty of questions and Reboletti didn’t have a specific timeline for taking action, but he plans to use testimony gathered at the hearing to form a plan that addresses heroin in all of Illinois.
“This is a statewide issue,” Reboletti said.