NAPERVILLE, Ill. (STMW) – The heroin problem in Naperville will be in the spotlight Monday during a special community forum at North Central College in the western suburb.

The issue has been in the news for the past year, with seven Naperville-area young people dying from heroin use during that time.

Community forums over the past few months have drawn huge crowds looking for information on what some city leaders have called “an epidemic.”

The forum, which takes place at 7 p.m. at the college’s Wentz Concert Hall, is being sponsored by U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Hindsale), whose district includes Naperville. Other presenters will include DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin; Pam Witt, social worker at Neuqua Valley High School; detectives Michael Umbenhower and Shaun Ferguson of the Naperville Police Department; and representatives from the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Robert Crown Center for Health Education and the Center for Compulsive Behavior and Addiction at Rush University Medical Center.

John Roberts, the founder of Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization (HERO), who lost his son to a heroin overdose, will also be a presenter at the forum.

Organizers said the idea was to get speakers who are on the front lines of the fight against heroin.

“Heroin use among kids has taken an alarming turn, and for many parents, it’s not a drug we’re used to watching out for,” Biggert said. “One drug-related death is one too many. And experts agree that the most important weapon we have in this battle is prevention.”

Berlin agreed that the more parents and the community as a whole know about heroin, the better.

“I think that awareness is the main outcome of this presentation,” Berlin said. “I became the state’s attorney in December of 2010, and since that time, half the cases we see in court involve possession and intent to sell heroin. The problem used to be with cocaine, but now heroin has become an enormous problem.”

Berlin added that problems with addiction to the drug or relapses on the part of those who have used it and tried to stop have added to the severity of the problem.

“We hope that parents will be able to identify the danger signs immediately and will understand some of the clues to look for,” he said. “This is something that spans all age groups from youngsters to teens and young adults. If someone is going down that road, we want family and friends to be able to detect heroin use immediately.”

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2011 more than 90,000 people over the age of 12 tried heroin for the first time.

“It would be incredibly naive of us to think that none of those 90,000 first-time users live in our communities,” Berlin said.

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