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Rise in Teen Heroin Use Leads D230 Administrators to Appeal to Parents

Robo calls and a letter from the Consolidated High School District 230 superintendent and principals were sent to parents seeking their help in countering deadly teen activities of late.

Debbie Boniface understands the importance of repeating a message, especially when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse among students.

“We want to make sure we emphasize healthy choices,” said Boniface, principal at . “Teens sometimes don’t hear it until it’s been said 27 times.”

Following recent overdose cases where heroin may have been involved, district administrators sent a letter to parents asking for their help and awareness. Robo calls also were made with principals reading the message.

“It’s very important for parents, community members and kids to know that the point is not to get someone in trouble, but to get them help and support,” Boniface said. “This is about making healthy and appropriate choices, and whatever we can do to ensure that is important.”

The letter sent Thursday by Superintendent James Gay asks parents to talk directly with their children about drug use. The letter mentioned resources on the district's website, as well as information on guidance departments when added help is needed.

The letter told parents there recently have been:

"...disturbing stories about dangerous and sometimes deadly behavior in which teens in the south suburbs have been engaging. News reports include underage drinking and law enforcement concerns over the increase in availability of drugs, particularly heroin.

“We strongly believe all adults, parents, educators, law enforcement, community and religious leaders must be vigilant in knowing what teens are involved in when adults are not present.”

Listen to the full call made by Carl Sandburg High School Principal Debbie Boniface.

On Jan 1., a 19-year-old former Amos Alonzo Stagg High School student, and Orland Park resident, was pronounced dead after paramedics were called to a house party in unincorporated Palos Township. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office has not released the cause of death.

police are currently investigating the Dec. 31 death of an 18-year-old former  where the drug is believed to have been a factor, said Deputy Chief James Boie. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office has yet to determine an exact cause of death in that case as well, pending toxicology reports. 

The issues described in the letter and calls stem more from the community as a whole, rather than specific incidents at the school, Boniface said.

“We’re not noticing a big uptick at the school itself, but we aren’t going to put our heads in the sand,” she said.

Breaks from school can be an added factor in cases where teens are found using drugs and drinking, Boniface noted.

When kids are away from school for a while, their guard is let down,” she said. “They don’t have to be somewhere the next day, don’t have to get homework done. Sometimes bad things happen.”

Orland Fire Battalion Chief Michael Schofield also noticed a rise in calls where teens were using heroin, as well as other substances. Schofield, who also serves as fire chief in Homer Glen, assembled the Blink of an Eye awareness program with parents whose children died from overdoses, .

The school encourages parents and students to browse the page on District 230's website that is devoted to substance abuse resources.  

If you are a District 230 parent share what you have heard about heroin usage in the comments section.

Palos Patch editor Dan Lambert contributed to this report. 

Darnell January 16, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Message needs to be repeated without a doubt BUT what really needs to be done is find the dealers and the supply chain and eradicate them with extreme prejudice!
Jane Marie January 16, 2012 at 09:41 PM
This has been a problem for a long time. Nice to see something FINALLY being done about it.
Jessica January 16, 2012 at 11:22 PM
This is a huge problem in the South Suburbs. I am not a D230 parent, but I am a former 230 student (Class of 2002). I was talking to my younger brother (19) about the drug and how many of his former classmates are on it. He informed me that it is cheaper to purchase Heroin than a pack of cigarettes. How sad. I hope everyone in the community continues to be proactive on trying to keep kids off this awful drug. I know we lost 3 people last year from my own graduating class to it, and we are 28 now.
Conor January 17, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I am a sandburg graduate class of 2009 and i am a heroin addict. I have been sober for just over a year but the availability of this drug in the south suburbs is out of control. Speaking as an addict a lot of times its to embarrassing to ask for help especially with heroin addiction. It is a disease plain and simple. I think more needs to be done to inform these kids that its ok to ask for help with addiction. It took me three rehabs to finally realize if i didnt stop i was going to die. To many young people are dieing from this disease and there isnt enough awareness of where to go to get help or where to even start. I have offered to come speak to the students but have been denied every time. I think if they hear it from someone who isnt that much older than them( I am 21) will really help get through to these kids.
Carrie Frillman January 17, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Conor. I whole-heartedly agree that you should be able to speak to kids about this, but I know there is a lot of "red tape" to cut through when it comes to that type of thing. I wish you the very best of luck.
Russ January 18, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Conor,hopefully by you testifying to young adults you may have an impact on their life choices.I hope you do get to tell your story to the High school teens.Thanks for sharing your experience with everyone.
Bob BrandNew Kelsey January 18, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Great story Conor!
Keri Cialdella January 19, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Families suffer as well and need help. If you are a family member/ friend of an addict, there are programs for you to help learn how to cope with the addiction. Many times we feel embarassed to discuss these issues with others and feel all alone. You are not alone!!!!! Many of us are dealing with the same kind of issues that you are. It is said that the loved ones and friends become "addicted" to the addict. Trust me, I know, that no one needs to go through it alone. I found a wonderful group called FAMILIES ANONYMOUS (FA for short) that meets Monday nights from 6:30-8:00 at Palos Hospital. It has helped my family tremendously by giving us the tools to help with OUR needs as well as the addict. When all seems grim, there is hope. I hope this helps.
Jessica January 19, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Thank you Keri, that is very useful information. I hope someone can put it to use! Addiction is, indeed, a family disease. My best wishes for you & yours!
Jessica January 19, 2012 at 05:34 AM
Thank you for your story, Conor, and congrats on being 1 year sober! Best wishes to you, and I hope you find a way to positively influence the community!
Julie Shaunnessey January 19, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Thank you Conor for sharing your story! You are definitely someone who needs to get the word out to other students and adults! I applaud you for being so brave and for being sober for a year! Your are awesome! Keep up the good work and don't stop fighting! Get the word out, I know you can do it! (hugs)
Kathie February 29, 2012 at 05:21 PM
There is also private counseling offered at the Orland Township on Ravinia Avenue. The counselors are educated and trained professionals who are wonderful people. Sessions confidential and very professionally handled. Going to a private practice can cost an absorbanent amount. I believe sessions are only $10.
Brian Kirk April 04, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Conor, My name is Brian Kirk & I am the Co-founder of the group HERO. (Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization) I lost my son Matthew Kirk to a Heroin overdose on April 3rd, 2009. On April 13th, 2012 we will be having a community forum & youth rally at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois regarding Heroin abuse & overdose death's in the south suburbs of Chicago & acroos the nation. We are looking for individuals such as yourself to speak at our youth rally in the evening. Would you be interested? Please contact me at bkirk@uic.edu if you are interested. You can also go the the event site at www.herohelpsevent.org or go to HERO's website at theherofoundation.org. You are a HERO in our eyes for stepping forth.
Dianna Hardison April 07, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Thanks Conor! My fiancé is a recovered heroin addict and has devoted his life to helping families cope and understand addiction. Please check out his website , he will gladly speak to anyone in need of help of a loved one or of themselves. WWW.FAMILYFIRSTINTERVENTION.COM

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