RINGWOOD – Until last year, there would have been a bag of heroin sitting in the bottom of Jason Beaty’s backpack.
But now there’s a yellow and purple cartridge containing nearly the opposite: naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an opiate overdose. Also unlike the heroin, the Wonder Lake resident hopes to give all the naloxone away.
Beaty and Michael Young, working as the McHenry County outreach coordinators for A Man in Recovery Foundation, hand out free naloxone kits to anyone who might need it to save someone who’s overdosing on heroin or other opioids.
“If we can keep them alive for one more day, that might be the day that they say enough is enough,” Beaty said. “If we can arm families with this while their kids are still in active addiction, this could save them.”
The number of fatal heroin overdoses in McHenry County in 2015 nearly doubled from the previous year, according to data from McHenry County Coroner Anne Majewski. Of the 43 people who died from drug overdoses through November 2015, 20 of the deaths were from heroin. Toxicology reports are pending on others, meaning that number could be even greater.
Anyone who contacts Beaty or Young to get naloxone also receives training on how to use the kits. Each comes with two live packs of the injectable naloxone. They’ve given out 150 kits and counting in the past five months.
The naloxone comes courtesy of Live4Lali, an Arlington Heights-based organization founded by Buffalo Grove native Chelsea Laliberte, who lost her brother, Alex, to an overdose of heroin and other drugs when he was 20.
Their motivation is supplied from experience.
Beaty and Young are former heroin addicts who got clean last year after using for more than half their lives. Young said it was his most recent overdose – he was saved with naloxone, or Narcan, as it’s commonly known – about 14 months ago that finally pushed him to get sober.
“The end is life or death,” said Young, a McHenry resident. “Before you go it takes everything away from you, but in the end – in the very end – it takes your life.”
Both still are clients of the McHenry County Drug Court and face years in prison if they don’t stay sober and complete the other mandates of their sentences.
They started volunteering for a Man in Recovery Foundation five months ago. Based in Naperville, the organization was founded by Tim Ryan, a former addict whose son died of a heroin overdose at age 20.
About a month ago, Alpine Storage owner Wayne Moran donated the space above his office at 5220 Richmond Road where Beaty and Young could meet with people seeking naloxone. The space offers a private setting.
They’ve decorated the office with pictures of young people who have died from heroin in McHenry County. About 30 faces watch over them while they work. Among them is Young’s brother, Andrew, who died at 19 when he tried heroin for the first time.
Moran said he donated the office because of the work Young and Beaty did to help a family member struggling with addiction.
“If it weren’t for these guys, he would be on that wall,” Moran said.
They also work hand in hand with the Other Side, a sober bar in Crystal Lake where naloxone kits are available. Most recently, Young said, police have started giving their cards to people in need of help.
Young thinks more people would contact them if it weren’t for the stigma surrounding drug use. Looking at the faces that line his office walls, it’s hard for him to see any reason not to get help.
“I don’t care if your (expletive) country club doesn’t like you,” Young said. “Save your kid’s life. I don’t care what your standing is on the PTA. Save your kid’s life. I don’t care what your police department brothers and sisters think of you. Save your kid’s life.”
“Because when they’re gone, you’re going to wish that you had called us.”
To contact Jason Beaty or Michael Young about receiving naloxone or getting treatment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Beaty can be reached at 815-261-8780 and Young at 815-585-6797. More information is available at www.amirf.org.