Parents who think they have a child who may be involved in drugs should act on their gut instincts. Don’t just snoop, be a cop.
That was what parent Amy Miller told a packed audience of parents, children, teachers and community members attending a drug forum Thursday night at . Miller’s daughter Megan was 18 and a senior at Neuqua when she died Jan. 29 from a heroin overdose.
“Don’t pick your battles, fight them all,” Miller said. “When the health and wellbeing and life of your child is at stake you have to do everything.”
Miller was a participant at the Community Forum on Drugs. and partnered for the programs. Another forum was held earlier this week at District 203.
Along with Miller, speakers included school social workers, schools principals, law enforcement officials from Naperville and Aurora and Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow.
Since the fall of 2011 have been held to help educate the public about the rise of heroin use in Naperville. The problem is also growing in .
A number of officials spoke briefly during the program including Naperville Police Chief , Indian Prairie School District 204 School Superintendent Kathy Birkett and U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert.
“Every responsible adult has to get the message out tonight,” Glasgow said. “You have to monitor your kids, don’t trust them, know where they go.”
He told the crowd: “Kids have the mindset that if you tie off and inject you’re an addict. If you snort or smoke you’re partying.”
In Will County, the charges for heroin-related arrests have tripled and quadrupled, he said. Right now the county is on pace for 40 to 50 arrests this year.
“Everyone in this room should be scared to death of this number,” Glasgow said.
The main portion of the presentation was from officers Shawn Ferguson and Mike Umbenower, who are part of the department’s special operations unit.
The officers have made the presentation at in Naperville, but the information they gather is constantly changing. During the program the pair show a map that plots the locations of known heroin users and those associated with heroin in Naperville. A few years ago that number was small, now the map has hit “the century mark,” Ferguson said.
The map was accurate two days earlier, but the pair told the crowd it is already out of date based on new information.
As it stands now, Naperville is on track to have a record year for heroin arrests, they said. So far there have been 127 arrests for cannabis – a gateway drug to heroin, 26 narcotics arrests, 10 heroin arrests; the oldest person arrested for heroin was 42, the youngest was 17. And, there have been three “known” heroin-related overdoses, one resulting in a death.
From 2010 to 2011 there was a 450 percent increase in heroin arrests among teens age 16 to 19, they said during the presentation. And, from 2010 to 2011 there was a 78 percent increase in felony drug arrests among those 14 to 19 years old.
As the pair stated at previous meetings, Chicago is the heroin capital of the country. And, they reiterated Thursday night the heroin problem is “exploding” on Naperville’s south side. Heroin doesn’t discriminate and every type of family is touched by the epidemic.
“When we talked about this last fall, nobody wanted to talk about this, there is a lot of stigma around this,” Umbenhower said. “If we are going to get past this we have to address it.”
Miller told those in attendance that they are not alone and that there is help available.
“If you are suspecting they are using drugs, do everything in your means, don’t be embarrassed like we were,” she said. “Don’t try to handle your problems by yourself. Do everything you can, contact everyone you can.”
Parents should snoop around and go into their kid’s rooms, check their phones, check their car, if possible get their Facebook password, said Pam Witt, a district 204 social worker.
The schools have resources to help parents whether that means helping a child get into a rehab program, making appointments or determining if a child has a problem, she said.
“The biggest thing we want you to walk away with tonight is you are not alone,” she said.
Some of the questions asked during the forum included:
What resources are available in the schools for a child to benefit from?
Schools have counselors, deans, social workers and psychologists available to try and help.
What do teachers do when a student is high in school? My student tells me there are students who are high all the time and teacher doesn’t do anything.
Neuqua Valley Principal Bob McBride said that there is a level of confidentiality so students don’t always know what has transpired in regard to punishment or action.
“If you see something, say something,” McBride said. “The most powerful tool we have is our students. Students are the ones that see things we don’t see.”
They will say something if there is a weapon brought to school or a possible suicide, but with substance abuse, they don’t say anything, he said.
Does heroin have a smell and what are the signs of a heroin high we should look for?
- Heroin doesn’t really have a smell.
- A child will have listless behavior, weight loss and a change in attitude.
- Sudden decrease in grades – cease to care about anything.
- A lack of personal hygiene.
- If it seems like they have the flu a lot and just can’t shake the flu they may be “dope sick.”
- If their pupils are pinpoints that is a tipoff.
- Hug them, smell their breath.
District 204 will be posting a video of the program online next week and it can be found at 204tv.org.