MONROE COUNTY, IL (KTVI)-- It is a problem that has taken lives and torn families apart. That`s why the Monroe County Coroner and the Monroe County Coalition for Drug-Free Communities invited the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois to speak about heroin.
A public forum was held Thursday night at Hope Christian Church in Columbia. Police and DEA representatives also shared insight into heroin and other drugs.
Coroner Vicki Koeber says the number of overdose EMS calls in Monroe County has jumped from 50 in 2012 to 70 in 2013.
'It (heroin) sucks the living soul out you and it leaves you with a shell that has a need for you to feed every day,' said Koeber.
Even U.S. Attorney Stephen Wiggington has a personal connection to heroin.
'I`ve known one little girl who went to high school with my daughter who died of a heroin overdose,' said Wiggington. 'I know how crushing it is to family to lose a child, particularly to a terrible drug like heroin.'
Wiggington has been part of forums that have reached 10,000 high school and middle school students. He estimates another 2,000 adults have attended heroin forums. Thursday night was the 1st such forum held in Monroe County.
Wiggington believes the forums work. He says overdose rates in Madison and St. Clair Counties have dropped after similar education efforts. He hopes Thursday`s effort will produce similar results.
'If it saves one life, it`s worth it,' Wiggington said.
Participants in the forum offered several pieces of advice for parents. One was to lock their medicine cabinets. Many heroin users started by getting hooked on prescription pain killers. Parents should also make sure unused medicine is properly disposed.
Here are some links to more information about preventing drug abuse.