2013 Hero Helps
When: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m.
Where: Lewis University, JFK Sports Complex, One University Parkway, Romeoville
Speakers: Speakers at the forum will include: Michael Botticelli, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; James Roache, FBI-Chicago Division; Kathleen Burke, Robert Crown Center for Health Education; Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck, Illinois Department of Public Health; Dr. David Mikolajczak, Silver Cross Hospital; Dr. Seth Eisenberg, Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse; and Dr. Steven Aks, Toxikon Consortium and Cook County Health and Hospital System.
Etc: Continuing education credits through Illinois Alcohol and Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association, Silver Cross Hospital and Aurora University are available to health care professionals, social workers, counselors and substance abuse treatment providers who attend.
Updated: May 21, 2013 6:18AM
If Illinois would take a cue from 2009’s H1N1 pandemic, opiate abuse, including that of heroin, could quickly be forced to its knees.
The answer lies in a comprehensive public health initiative, focusing on education and community involvement on multiple levels, said Paul Lauridsen, clinical director of Stepping Stones Treatment Center in Joliet.
That’s the goal of Friday’s Hero Helps Community Forum from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Lewis University’s JFK Sports Complex in Romeoville.
Lauridsen believes sweeping public health messages greatly reduced the number of swine flu deaths. Unfortunately, he said, solutions to the opiate abuse epidemic will be strategies many people won’t want to hear.
“This is no longer about stigma and the poor homeless person living on the streets in the inner cities. It’s now a suburban problem,” Lauridsen said. “Last year, 54 people died from heroin overdoses in Will County alone. That’s greater than any other single category of accidental deaths, including car accidents. And that number doesn’t include prescribed opiates.”
He identified three groups of individuals most likely to abuse opiates and/or die from an accidental overdose — people taking prescription pain medicine for legitimate reasons, risk-taking adolescents and persons with mental health conditions who, consciously or unconsciously, resort to opiates for self-medication.
In addition to stepping up educational efforts, Lauridsen recommends having Naxolone readily available to reverse overdoses and advocates more funding to screen for and treat mental health disorders.
He said judicious use of Naxolone is not tantamount to condoning inappropriate opiate use any more than making condoms available to teens is a license for promiscuity. Naxolone is simply a tool to help save lives while addressing the underlying addiction, he said.
“The fact is, many people are addicted to opiates and dying from them,” Lauridsen said. “If we don’t give them something for an overdose, they’ll die and then we won’t be able to help them.”
He said an emergency hospital admission for any opiate overdose should include four components — information on the dangers of opiates, a prescription for Naxolone, a referral for a follow-up treatment provider and a support group contact.
Parents can insist that schools offer heroin prevention programs, Lauridsen said, such as that offered by the Robert Crown Center for Health Education in Hinsdale. Teens especially need to know that the purer the heroin, the deadlier the drug, he said.
Lauridsen also believes that all patients requiring opiate pain medication should have access to Naxolone because many overdoses occur at prescribed dosages that the body previously tolerated.
“For instance, if you haven’t used it in several days, don’t take the amount you’re used to taking or it could kill you,” he said.