Heroin’s rising popularity among suburban teenagers may have caught those who consider drug abuse an urban problem by surprise, but local parents, educators and public officials are coming to realize they aren’t immune to the trauma of addiction, the Chicago Tribune reports. Suburbs have hosted public forums to discuss the emerging epidemic. Experts say as awareness grows, so do the chances of finding a viable solution. Among the most far-reaching projects is a new educational pilot program launched in 11 suburban schools last fall.
Created by the Robert Crown Center, a Hinsdale, Il.,-based organization that specializes in heath education, the program provides a comprehensive approach to heroin prevention. CEO Kathleen Burke said the program sets itself apart from other educational initiatives — most notably, DARE — by emphasizing public health over criminal justice. “It’s not a matter of law enforcement,” Burke said. “We need to start recognizing that health education is one of the most important components of a child’s life.” The number of heroin-related deaths in Chicago’s collar counties has reached record-breaking levels in recent years.