I must say that I have never been addicted to a drug or even had someone in my family who was addicted. However, as a Police Officer I have seen the grip that addiction to opiates has on peoples lives. I must also admit that for many years as a Police Officer, I had the mindset that if people did not want to be addicted to drugs, they should not have started in the first place. I have really learned a lot in the past couple of years and would love to share some of my thoughts with you.
I have spoke with many addicts who explained their story to me and they are all very similar to one another. I met several who started taking pain pills prescribed by a doctor after a sports injury. They quickly found themselves dependent on the drug to get by. Once the Doctor quit prescribing, they were forced to buy the pills on the street. Many times these young people turned to Heroin because it was cheap and easy to get. The introduction to Heroin would take them down a road with no way of return. However, they become desperate and nothing matters except for the next high. I have spoke to many people who say “Well they can just stop”. Actually they can’t just stop. Addicts who stop cold turkey become “dope sick”. This means that they become violently ill, spike fevers, sweat, vomit, and feel like they are dying. It would be like having the worse case of the flu times ten.
The death toll from overdoses of prescription painkillers has more than tripled in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 40 people die each day in the United States from overdoses of drugs, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.
As a Police Officer, I have shown up to many many overdoses. Some lived and some did not. I saw the heartbreak with their friends and families and have often thought there was more we can do. Many years ago I was a youth Pastor. I will never forget the day I walked into a house as Police Detective and saw a young girl that was in my youth group laying on the floor unresponsive as medics tried desperately to save her life. I saw her young daughter in the swing watching the chaos. That little girl’s life would forever change as her mother passed away that day. It hurt me to see her slip away. This was a good girl from a good family. How could this happen? What can we do to help people?
I serve as the Chairman of the Tazewell Teen Initiative. This group is committed to educating and preventing teen alcohol and drug use in Tazewell County. I also serve on the Pekin Heroin Initiative. We have worked hard on several projects since we began in January of 2016. We were able to secure Narcan for officers in our city, produce an educational video series, and start a Safe Passage program for addicts. This program was started to help those addicted that wanted help, to go to the Police Station and get help immediately without fear of arrest. After a quick phone call to Gateway, many times that person will be driven to an inpatient facility where they will receive help to fight their addiction.
I am committed to helping educate people on what addiction is and what it looks like. I want to see our county do more for people who find themselves addicted to Opiates. As the Sheriff, I will continue to work hard on this, and take this countywide and work to help those affected throughout our communities. This is a serious issue to me and not something we should toss around for political gain, or to feel good about ourselves, but we should be committed to doing everything we can to help those addicted. I am committed to support groups like Fight the Fight who encourage and fight for those addicted to get them the help they need. This group has a goal to open a sober house, to offer addicts who have gone through recovery, have a safe place to live with people who will encourage them to stay clean.
Why is this an issue that the Sheriff takes on? First, we should truly care about those in our communities. We live in a disposable world and many times treat people that way too. We must start viewing those fighting addiction as valuable people that deserve our help and support. The other reason is to reduce crime. Many times when someone is addicted to these drugs, they become desperate to get their next high. Many people are harmless, but they will steal from their friends, families, and strangers to feed their addiction. Many addicts I have spoken to would have never have taken anything from anyone before becoming addicted to pills or Heroin. Addiction not only is a life gripping trap, but it creates desperation and panic to do whatever needed to get their next high. This is an issue that is growing at an alarming rate, and we must do more than talk about it. We must do more…it could be our own son, daughter, or grandchild someday.