City of Chicago, Cook County form joint task force to tackle heroin epidemic

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Chicago’s "Heroin Highway" is hotter than ever, and now elected officials say it's time to get serious about the epidemic.

For the first time ever, a joint task force is talking about the devastating addiction that destroys families and takes lives.

On the street it's called smak, skag, brown sugar, or black tar. Mark Filler says he only needs one word to describe heroin, and that’s ‘destruction.’

“The drugs completely destroy anything you know about a person,” Filler said.

He lost his son Jordan to the drug two years ago. Jordan was 23, athletic, good looking and had a great family. But the Jordan that was became a Jordan his parents didn't know once he became addicted to heroin.

“They lie, they cheat, they steal, all sorts of sneaky things that a normal kid would not do,” Filler said.

He turned his pain into purpose by launching a foundation to help other who face the same problem and live with the stigma.

Jordan’s father says one of the biggest misconceptions is that heroin users are losers or scum bags, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“This probe is not just in poor neighborhoods. It’s in the wealthy suburbs and state's all around the nation,” Alderman Ed Burke said.

Now, a new task force is talking about Chicago’s heroin epidemic, which is following the lead of health professionals in DuPage County.

"We can learn from our neighbors and hopefully drive down the number of people who are dying from this and help the people who are addicted to it the help they need,” said Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin.

Commissioner Boykin’s district is part of what is called the “Heroin Highway” because of the affluent users who drive to the west side in search of the highly addictive drug.

In order to the solve the problem, officials need to hear the facts from the people who deal with it on a daily basis.

For the family of filler, the public conversation alone is a victory.

"Statistics show 90 percent of addicts never get any help. Can you imagine if someone with diabetes and heart disease never got help? So it's really critical,” Filler said.