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Helping teens fight heroin addiction

Local officials continue to mount an offense against what they say is a growing heroin epidemic in St. Charles County and throughout the nation.

The offense in coming weeks will take the form of a second “teen drug summit” to try to reach students on the dangers of the drug.

County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar told the County Council at its Oct. 26 meeting that the summit is one of the major activities planned by the CRUSH (Community Resources United to Stop Heroin) initiative. The council unanimously approved a bill at that meeting authorizing the prosecuting attorney’s office to accept a $4,982 state grant and the county to accept donations for the CRUSH initiative.

CRUSH was established in May by the county Prosecuting Attorney’s office and brings together schools, law enforcement, treatment providers, community leaders and health care organizations. The initiative was established to combat the increasing use of heroin in the community. In recent years, the drug has become more available.

Beginning on June 11, a coalition of law enforcement agencies arrested 54 individuals over a 36-hour period who were charged with various heroin-related crimes, Lohmar said. He said the arrests resulted in 34,000 heroin doses taken off the street, worth about $900,000. The arrests were the culmination of a 13-month investigation.

“We realize we have a big problem with heroin, not just in our community. Every community across the county like ours has one,” Lohmar told commissioners, “but we’ve taken some steps that we believe are designed to eradicate the problem the best we can.”

CRUSH is designed as an “education tool” for young residents, he said. The second annual Teen Drug Summit is its next big event. It is designed to reach about 350 sixth- through eighth-grade students, educating them about the dangers of heroin.

The summit takes place on Nov. 12 from  8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the St. Charles Convention Center with 25 organizations participating.

Every school in the county can send up to 20 students, who will hear presentations from law enforcement, drug treatment providers and recovering addicts.

“They are going to hear basically a real-life version of the dangers and just the absolute life-altering circumstances of heroin,” Lohmar said.  “We believe we’re onto something that could be pretty powerful in the community.”

Councilmembers were supportive, with several likening CRUSH to the police DARE programs for younger children conducted by police in local schools.

“I read in the Wall Street Journal that heroin is killing more people than auto accidents and the amount you’re asking for is a mere pittance to what we spend, say for auto safety,” Councilman Joe Cronin (District 1) said.

Cronin said the program may be like DARE for older children and may pay dividends beyond its initial cost. The program could perhaps be ongoing in local schools in the future, he said.

Councilman Joe Brazil (District 2) asked if Lohmar needed more financial support from the council. “This is an epidemic, this is a horrible situation,” he said.

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