Blog Archives

As I begin this blog, a little background about who I am. I am a middle-aged suburban working mother of two children, a son who is 25 and a daughter who is 18.  I am a resident of Lake County for over 30 years, residing in Gurnee.  I have a great job, live in a ‘good’ neighborhood and have friends and family close by.

The first time I became aware that there was an opioid ‘situation’ brewing is the day my niece told me that her friend, Alex Laliberte, 20 years old and a student at Western Illinois University, passed away after snorting heroin in 2009.  Alex resided in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.  I was incredulous. What? How could this happen in Buffalo Grove?  Isn’t heroin an inner city problem?  After the initial shock of the news, I went back to living my life as a semi-oblivious mom. Alex was an anomaly. Nothing to worry about.

The second time heroin touched my life is when a friend of mine from high school, a mother of two teen-aged boys confided that one of her sons was a heroin addict.  How could this be?  My friend and her husband are college educated, solidly upper middle class, own their own home in a ‘good’ suburb, are employed and from all outward appearances have a pretty decent life.  There must be something dysfunctional in their home for this to happen to them. I was wrong. And I was uneducated.

The third time heroin touched me is when my neighbor’s son was ‘outed’ as a heroin addict.  No way!  They live two blocks away from me.  I have known this kid since he was in grade school.  I know the parents.  I know his living conditions.  He goes to high school with my son.  What do you mean he is an addict?  And my education about heroin addiction grew.  I started to research how people become addicted to heroin, how the chemistry in the brain is changed, how difficult it is to re-wire the pleasure senses in the brain once addicted to an opioid.  I also discovered that many people first become addicted to opioids when they are legally prescribed pain killers after surgery or injuries – drugs such as Vicodin, Oxy-Contin and Hydrocodone.  After the prescription runs out, people begin buying these pills illegally.  The cost on the black market is very expensive.  Heroin is much cheaper, more accessible and provides a better ‘high’.  Our children who were legally prescribed medications become addicted to them, their brain chemistry is altered and they go in search for the high their body craves.  Heroin fulfills that need for them.

In 2015, my 16 year old daughter came home with a couple of her friends, one of whom was a new friend.  Minutes after arriving in my house, I heard a commotion.  I went to check out what was happening and discovered the new friend barely breathing, clearly unresponsive.  I was shouting at my daughter and her friend to call 911, something was wrong, what was happening, what is going on, what did this kid take, a million questions while my daughter and her friend were crying, screaming that they thought he took heroin.  As I frantically gave mouth to mouth to this teen-aged boy, the breath escaping from him, pushing oxygen into his lungs, slapping his face, all while screaming into the phone at the 911 dispatcher to hurry, hurry, hurry, my brain racing that this kid is actually dead in my bathroom, how could this be happening, I am a good parent, my kid is a good kid, what will the neighbors think, oh my God don’t let him die, police and paramedics swarming into my house, grabbing the kid,  pushing us out of the room and delivering the life saving dose of Narcan that reversed the overdose and this boy’s life being saved literally before my very eyes.

Then the aftermath.  As the boy was taken to the hospital in the ambulance, my daughter, her friend and my son were questioned by the police.  Did he take the drugs in my house?  The police need to search my daughter’s room and collect evidence.  Did my daughter and her friend know he was a heroin user?  How well do they know him? Does he have a history of addiction? What is the situation in my home that this happened here?

Heroin was literally banging at my front door. I began to search for resources. What help is available in Lake County for those facing addiction?  What behavioral health services are available? What support is there for people facing addiction and their families?  I discovered Nicasa.  With their 50 year history of helping people facing addiction, family advocacy services, residential half way house and connection to other service such as the Lake County Department of Health, the Lake County Opioid Initiative and  Live for Lali, I found a non- profit that is truly making a difference for those in Lake County who need services and support as they battle their addictions.

I called Nicasa and expressed my interest in becoming a Board member.  I needed to find a place where I could use my talents and resources to help others as they battle addiction.  I joined the Board in 2016.

As my daughter’s friend continues his battle with addiction, we have learned to detach with love. We have provided him with emotional support and connected him with services. We have learned that while we can care for him, we cannot love him into sobriety.  We cannot force him to make better decisions.  My daughter has learned the very tough lesson that she needs to take care of her own welfare, physically and mentally.  She must let go and not try to control her friend and his actions. He must take responsibility for his own actions and the consequences of those actions.  He must learn from his own mistakes.  There are resources in Lake County, including A Way Out  which fast track substance abusers to programs and services such as Nicasa.

The opioid ‘situation’ I became aware of in 2009 is now a crisis in our country and our community.  Drug overdose deaths in this country nearly tripled from 1999 to 2014. Among the 47,055 drug overdose deaths that occurred in the U.S. in 2014, 28,647 (60.9 percent) involved an opioid.   We need to come together as a community to help combat this health crisis.  We need to remove the stigma of addiction and treat it as the disease it is so people can receive the treatment that is so desperately needed.  Because if we don’t, who will?

Nicasa’s Mission and Vision

Mission: Nicasa empowers and promotes healthy lifestyles to prevent and treat substance abuse, addiction, and other risky behaviors.

Vision: Nicasa will be the premier behavioral and social health services organization for individuals, families, and communities in northern Illinois and beyond.

If you haven’t already, you will soon be seeing Blue Kids in lawns, on posters and in store windows throughout Lake County Illinois.  The Blue Kids is a community education effort to raise awareness and combat child abuse.  The Blue Kids pop up in April because April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States since 1983.

What is child abuse?

In its simplest form, child abuse is the physical or mental maltreatment or sexual molestation of a child.

Maltreatment includes neglect of a child which encompasses failing to provide food, clothing and care.

In 2015, the most recent year that data is available, nearly 700,000 children are abused in the United States annually.  An estimated 683,000 children (unique incidents) were victims of abuse and neglect in 2015.

Neglect is the most common form of maltreatment. Of the children who experienced maltreatment or abuse, three-quarters suffered neglect; 17.2% suffered physical abuse; and 8.4% suffered sexual abuse. (Some children are polyvictimized—they have suffered more than one form of maltreatment.)

About four out of five abusers are the victims’ parents. A parent of the child victim was the perpetrator in 78.1% of substantiated cases of child maltreatment.

According to Lake County Undersheriff Ray Rose said one of the most important ways to address child abuse is to realize and address its causes, which he said include domestic violence, mental health issues and alcohol and drug abuse.

Nicasa provides many services to support healthy families, including its nationally recognized parent support and education program.  Nicasa provides family advocacy services including:

  • Compassionate service advocacy and case management
  • Parent support and education
  • Referrals for health care
  • Referrals for domestic violence counseling
  • Referrals to other local social service agencies and townships for financial and basic needs assistance
  • Family counseling
  • Referrals to other Nicasa services including substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, and anger management

Please visit our page for more information about the programs Nicasa offers to help build strong and healthy families in Northern Lake County, Illinois.

Nicasa’s Mission and Vision

Mission: Nicasa empowers and promotes healthy lifestyles to prevent and treat substance abuse, addiction, and other risky behaviors.

Vision: Nicasa will be the premier behavioral and social health services organization for individuals, families, and communities in northern Illinois and beyond.

As we embark on a new calendar year, it’s time to look back at our previous fiscal year and reflect on the successes and challenges Nicasa faced.

For fiscal year 2016 (July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016), we are proud of the over 7,000 clients we served.

5,636 Adolescent and adult clients were served in counseling and Bridge House

2,076 children were served with in-school and after school programming

239 adolescent offenders served in Teen Court

Nicasa was awarded a $100,000 challenge grant by the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County. The grant matched new and increased donations from individual, corporate and foundation donors.  Nicasa raised the entire challenge amount within six months.  We are incredibly thankful to all the donors who helped us reach our goal!

Yong Taekwondo donated 40 turkeys for our clients’ holiday meals and held a board breaking event that raised $1,300 for Nicasa’s family advocacy program.  An additional 61 holiday meals were provided by Jewel-Osco.  The turkeys and meals were distributed to Nicasa clients in need.

Nicasa celebrated its 50th Anniversary on June 17, 2016.  Incorporated in 1966 as a one-employee organization, Nicasa celebrated 50 years of innovation and quality behavioral health services to the individuals, families and communities of Lake County.  Multiple events are planned throughout the year.

Nicasa’s 50th Anniversary Commemorative Golf Outing took place on June 20 at White Deer Run Golf Club in Vernon Hills.   Mark your calendars for June 19, 2017 and join us for a beautiful day of golf in support of Nicasa’s programs and services!  For more information or to register, please visit us at http://nicasa.org/golf/.  Maybe you will be the one who takes home the $50,000 putting prize!

In a difficult financial climate, when many social service agencies were cutting programs or closing doors due to the Illinois state budget crisis, Nicasa was able to weather the storm and continue essential operations at all facilities.  Though many cuts and adjustments were made, Nicasa was dedicated to maintiaining its position s a viable resource and valuable provider for low-income individuals and families.  Fiscally responsible management, as well as supportive donors, and utilization of reserves allowed Nicasa to survive the year without payment of many state contracts.  We are extremely grateful to all our donors who support us in our mission and vision.

Nicasa’s Mission and Vision

Mission: Nicasa empowers and promotes healthy lifestyles to prevent and treat substance abuse, addiction, and other risky behaviors.

Vision: Nicasa will be the premier behavioral and social health services organization for individuals, families, and communities in northern Illinois and beyond.