Senator Kirk, Community Leaders Discuss Rising Heroin Abuse, Local Issues in DuPage County

Meeting Also Touches on Elgin-O’Hare Western Access and Economic Development

Lisle, Ill.–(ENEWSPF)–March 4, 2014.  With the rate of heroin-related deaths in DuPage County rising to more than one death every 8.7 days between 2012 and 2013, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today held a roundtable discussion with DuPage County-area mayors, village presidents and community leaders to discuss ways to address illegal drugs.

The roundtable also touched on other community issues including Elgin-O’Hare Western Access and DuPage Economic Development.

Roundtable attendees included:

  • Greg Bedalov, President and CEO of Choose DuPage
  • Village President Rodney Craig (Hanover Park, Immediate Past President of DuPage
  • Mayors and Managers Conference)
  • 2nd District Appellate Court Justice Ann Jorgensen
  • DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen
  • Mayor Deborah Bullwinkel (Villa Park)
  • Mayor Steve Morley (Elmhurst)
  • Mayor Ruben Pineda (West Chicago)
  • Mayor George Pradel (Naperville)
  • May or Nunzio Pulice (Wood Dale)
  • Village President Erik Spande (Winfield)
  • Mayor Frank Trilla (Willowbrook)
  • Mayor Martin Tully (Downers Grove)
  • Village President Kevin Wallace (Bartlett)
  • Village Manager Joseph Block (Addison)
  • Village Manager Ron Searl (Westmont)
  • Trustee George Dunham (Schaumburg)
  • County Board Member Sam Tornatore (District 1)
  • County Board Member Elizabeth Chaplin (District 2)
  • County Board Member Peter DiCianni (District 2)
  • County Board Member Brian Krajewski (District 3)
  • County Board Member Gary Grasso (District 3)
  • County Board Member Amy Grant (District 4)
  • County Board Member Grant Eckhoff (District 4)
  • County Board Member Tonia Khouri (District 5)
  • County Board Member Bob Larsen (District 6)

There were 45 heroin-related deaths in DuPage County in 2013 and 38 in 2012. From 2011 to 2013, heroin deaths in DuPage County have nearly doubled. The roundtable unanimously agreed that community action was needed to stop the scourge.

“Our communities are being ravaged by heroin and illegal drugs,” Sen. Kirk said. “I stand beside community leaders in the fight to raise awareness on drug trafficking and the damage it does to our families and our towns.”

Sen. Kirk noted that the federal government can play a major role in fighting against drugs and gangs, pointing specifically to the recent arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Chicago’s Public Enemy Number One. While Guzman was arrested in Mexico, the United States Government has fought to have Guzman extradited. Guzman is considered responsible for more than 80 percent of the street drugs sold in the Chicagoland area.

“I am focused on tackling this issue at all levels of government,” Sen. Kirk said. “I want to keep our communities safe, prevent senseless tragedies and save lives.”

Sen. Kirk added that it is within the capability of the federal government to crush gang and drug problems facing Illinois communities.

DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen agreed.

“This is a problem that hits all ages, all municipalities, and all social strata,” Jorgensen said. “These stories need to be told in order to raise awareness and eventually win this battle.”

DuPage County Board Member Grant Eckhoff noted that when even one person’s life is lost to heroin, it’s too many.

“In DuPage County, I’m proud to say we’re investing in education, prevention and awareness,” Eckhoff said. “We’ve assembled a coalition of involved families, medical, education and legal experts, public health, prevention and treatment representatives. Together, we’re providing families the tools they need to understand this public health crisis, have important conversations with their kids, and get the help they need. Together we will reverse this deadly trend and save lives.”

“The only way we’re going to beat this is to accept that this problem exists,” Jorgensen added. “We can’t be too afraid or embarrassed to discuss this issue and acknowledge its effect on our communities.”

DuPage County and Economic Development

Sen. Kirk noted that the rising drug concern in DuPage County represented more than just a human concern—also an economic one.

“DuPage County is a major hub of business and growth for the entire region,” Sen. Kirk said. “I want to work with business leaders and community leaders to make sure that the economic component to making Illinois great again is on display here in DuPage County.”

The meeting was hosted by Choose DuPage, an organization dedicated to the economic development and growth of DuPage County.

Choose DuPage President and CEO, Greg Bedalov, noted that DuPage County remains an important business hub for the Midwest, as home to major employers and Fortune 500 companies including McDonald’s and Navistar International.

“We want to keep DuPage County as attractive to businesses, employers, and entrepreneurs as possible,” Bedalov said. “It’s a privilege to work with community leaders who are dedicated to the common interest of economic development in DuPage County and Illinois, in general.”

Bedalov specifically noted the importance of the Elgin-O’Hare Western Access project.

“Western Access O’Hare represents a major investment essential to economic development in DuPage and for the Midwest,” Bedalov said. “There are 127 miles of economic development opportunity here—completing this project would be a boon to communities across Illinois.”

DuPage County Board Member Sam Tornatore echoed Bedalov’s sentiment.

“We are committed to working with our federal, state and regional partners to complete the funding package which will make the Elgin O’Hare Western Access project a reality,” Tornatore said. “This important initiative will create more than 60,000 jobs, cut travel times and relieve congestion. Western access to O’Hare not only improves this vital highway system, it also provides an enhanced quality of life and optimizes economic opportunity for O’Hare’s surrounding commercial and industrial areas.”

“I’m very proud of our work in DuPage County, and I hope that today’s discussion will lead to continued productivity moving forward,” Sen. Kirk said.

Source: kirk.senate.gov