Pubdate: Mon, 08 Nov 2004
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2004 The Daily Herald Company
Author: Tona Kunz
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


That five teens and young adults have overdosed and died in the
Tri-Cities since the start of summer began may signal a renewed start
to a deadly trend.

That at least four had had brushes with drug court may help save the
lives of others.

Kane County Judge James Doyle, who created and oversees that drug
court, has joined forces with Kane County Coroner Chuck West to study
the latest deaths and how local leaders and law enforcement might put
up roadblocks for others on paths to destruction.

New software will be in place by Jan. 1 and allow West to more quickly
and accurately study drug deaths back to 1996. He'll be able to look
at age, town, drug and type of death.

The new easy-to-use search software also will allow police, attorneys
and school drug education coordinators to do their own studies on
drugs or other topics such as suicides and drownings.

Doyle will compare the coroner's information with a study of his own
on drug court participants and drug arrest records to see if the court
is working or needs to expand.

They hope to soon be in a better position to identify the beginning of

Now, they only can speculate on whether the deaths of five young
people since the beginning of summer -- as many overdose deaths in
4" months as in all of last year -- hints at a resurgence of harder
drug use, particularly cocaine and opiates like heroin.

Officials hope to identify trends earlier to better head off a repeat
of the scourge in the late 1990s that left dozens of teens and young
adults dead throughout the Northwest suburbs and the Tri-Cities.

That outbreak spurred the creation of drug education forums and addict
support groups. Another outgrowth of the deaths was the creation of a
drug court designed specifically for motivating repeat drug users onto
a regimen of counseling and treatment by offering it as an alternative
to jail time.

Yet, according to preliminary coroner reports, drug deaths among all
age groups are on the rise -- and deaths in the younger set,
especially, have officials taking notice.

The drugs involved in the deaths vary but mirror what local substance
abuse counselors say have become trendy.

While heroin and other opiate-based drugs remain the favorites,
cocaine use has increased steadily, as has the propensity to mix
prescription pills or alcohol with harder drugs. That mix-mentality
could be fueling the deaths, officials said.

"The number of unnatural deaths recently are incredible," Doyle

Doyle expects to release a study by a retired Aurora University
professor on the success and failures of drug court participants in
November or December. He already has preliminary results of the study
and plans to present the completed study to the Kane County Board.

Between the study of death statistics and the study of drug court
participants, officials hope to get a handle on where young adults are
falling through the cracks and what programs work best to combat addiction.

The studies could be used to back up requests for an expanded drug
court, creation of a DUI court, similar to one being studied in DuPage
County, or education programs through the coroner's office.

"We have to start looking at where the system went wrong and what we
can do to save these kids' lives," Doyle said.

An initial review of recent deaths has officials thinking time is of
the essence.

Rising purity levels of heroin and cocaine increase the risks of
overdoses, officials said.

Doyle has started letting people get into treatment programs as soon
as they apply to drug court rather than making them wait until they
officially plead guilty to a crime in court, which can take up to a

Doyle said he also is working with Judge Philip DiMarzio to get
drug-related probation violations shifted to drug court immediately
rather than after a sometimes time-consuming probation hearing.
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