Community forum planned to address heroin in McHenry County

Two weeks ago, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department, with the help of local police agencies at U.S. Marshals, arrested 16 alleged street-level drug dealers across the county in a one-day warrant roundup.

Most of the arrests involved heroin, a highly addictive drug that has seen increased popularity in McHenry County in the past five years, according to McHenry County Undersheriff Andrew Zinke.

On Wednesday, the sheriff’s department, the Mental Health Board, Northwest Community Counseling, and other local agencies are taking part in a community heroin forum at McHenry County College. The forum will discuss the prevalence of heroin in McHenry County and how the community plans to respond.

“The war on drugs has been going on pretty mainstream since the1980s,” Zinke said. “And the war hasn’t stopped.”

There were 122 overdose deaths in the county from 2009 to 2012, according to the McHenry County Coroner’s Office, 52 of which involved heroin. There were 16 heroin overdoses in 2012, the most in the past four years.

With the county’s heroin problem showing no signs of slowing, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department formed a Heroin Education/Enforcement Action Taskforce in the spring of 2013 in an effort to curb heroin use in the county. The group is composed of officials from a diverse group of agencies such as state’s attorney’s offices, the coroner’s office, local police, and health service providers.

Since the implementation of HEAT, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department has made 31 heroin-related arrests, netting more than 64 grams of heroin and $2,300 in seized currency.

“I think we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg,” Zinke said. “There’s a lot more to do. It’s about leadership and communication. And we have great leaders across the board.”

Zinke added that for HEAT to be successful and to stop heroin use in McHenry County, it has to be about more than just putting someone behind bars.

“A lot of people are getting involved, and a lot of people are responding [to the heroin problem],” Zinke said. “Local schools. The Regional Office of Education has been working with us. Local police departments.

“A community efforts is what’s needed. Police can’t do it alone. Courts can’t do it alone. We need the community to recognize there is a problem.”

The forum, titled “Heroin: a community’s response to a community’s crisis,” will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in the auditorium of McHenry County College, 8900 Route 14, Crystal Lake.

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