MADISON COUNTY, Ill. - After three suspected heroin deaths in one day in Madison County, the sheriff says the drug problem is unlike any they have ever faced.
Sheriff Bob Hertz says they can't arrest their way out of it, so they're bringing together law enforcement, treatment providers and even former addicts to try and fix what they're calling an epidemic.
"Twenty-two days clean today, so woohoo. Very proud of myself," Jo Ann Brewer read from her daughter's journal.
The entry Brewer read us was written weeks before her daughter, Sara, died from a heroin overdose in January in their Granite City home.
"I fear rejection, failure, and being alone the rest of my life. Or the big one: dying. And dying alone. I guess death doesn't scare me too much or I wouldn't have shot drugs for years. But that's addiction," she read.
Jo Ann says Sara started drugs at 14. She started doing heroin about two and a half years ago. She tried rehab, and until her last day she worked with Addiction Treatment Strategies in Edwardsville.
"My husband and I both lived it with her every day," said Jo Ann.
In Madison County, there have been five suspected heroin overdose deaths so far this year. Last year, there were 23. In 2012, there were 21. The record was 26 in 2011. In 2008, there were none.
"There's not a silver bullet solution to this problem," said Sheriff Hertz.
Hertz and State's Attorney Tom Gibbons are forming a task force to help solve the problem by looking at past efforts, current efforts, and working on a plan moving forward.
"Some of these people that are dying as a result of the use of heroin are people that aren't even on our radar screen," Sheriff Hertz said.
"We have to look at this from every level," added Gibbons. "Not just from the angle of reducing demand for heroin and dealing with the current impact. But we also have to look at the supply of heroin."
"It would be very good if they could go after the person that's actually making this heroin," Jo Ann Brewer shared.
Just like the number of overdose deaths has exploded in the last three years, so has the number of heroin charges filed in Madison County.
The group will meet Thursday February 27. The first public information session is March 7.