(CBS) — Illinois’ heroin problem takes center stage this weekend at a summit of law enforcement, educators, doctors and parents in the south suburbs.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow is among those expected to speak at the gathering sponsored by the Illinois State Crime Commission.
A couple of moms tell WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya how heroin has devastated their lives.
Laura Fry says she thought her 25-year old son would go on to do great things. Instead, he finds himself in Cook County Jail, awaiting trial on charges of heroin possession with intent to sell, and facing up to 30 years in prison.
Fry is from Wauconda and says it never occurred to her that her son was a heroin addict until his arrest in December in Chicago. He’d been using the drug for two years.
She admits the signs were there, but she missed them.
“He stopped eating, stopped bathing, his living area was slovenly kept and he started stealing,” Fry says.
She says her son stole from her, her husband and her son’s younger brother, who is autistic. Items included a laptop computer, jewelry and video games.
“As a parent, you kind of stick your head in the sand. Who wants to believe your child is using heroin?” the mother says.
Fry now wants to warn parents to be on the lookout for signs their child may be using heroin.
She says she knows five friends who, since September, have lost their children to heroin. Four deaths were due to overdoses, one was a heroin-related suicide.
Terri Bartlett lost her only child, Michael, to heroin abuse in September. He died five days after his 22nd birthday.
Bartlett says her son had been in and out of rehab, in and out of jail, and she thought he was on the road to becoming clean when he took the fatal hit of heroin.
Bartlett says she raised her son with all the right ideas: watching before he crossed the street, saying “please” and “thank you” and to stay away from drugs.
But she says one of his peers had him try heroin a couple of years ago, and that’s all it took. He was hooked.
Bartlett says she’s so devastated by her son’s death she finds it hard to get up in the morning.
Jerry Elsner of the Illinois State Crime Commission says answers are needed to stop the insidious growth of heroin use. In Will County alone last year, there were nearly 50 people who died of heroin overdoses, he said.
“Every day we wait, children are dying in the state,” he says.
The summit begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights.