With Heroin Cases Up, One Father Offers Help To Others
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Amid the work of each day and the people he meets, Jon Jelinek knows the people who know him care.
Yet understanding the daily grief of a father who lost a son to heroin addiction is a delicate topic.
"My son didn't want to be an addict," said Jelinek on Thursday at Parlor City Pub and Eatery in the New Bohemia district of Cedar Rapids, the restaurant he owns. "When he straightened up, he was embarrassed at who he was. Heroin is such a demon. It's like a monster in the closet."
Jelinek helped his son, Sam, battle a terrible and, ultimately, addiction to heroin for 18 months. Amid the trips to treatment in Florida and here in Cedar Rapids, Sam Jelinek, 23, could not pull himself out of its grips.
On March 22, 2013, Jon Jelinek found his son, lifeless, with a syringe needle in his hand.
Burying a child is a certain pain that never goes away for a parent. Especially when Jon thinks about his son, a 2007 graduate of Cedar Rapids Xavier High School.
"They'll smoke it first and, once they can't get a good enough high off that, they're hooked," said Jelinek. "The brain receptors are already messed up. The next thing is to shoot up to get higher and higher."
When talking with his son about heroin addiction, Jon Jelinek said Sam put it like this:
"'Dad, the best high is to get as close to death as you possibly can.'"
Jon Jelinek's story is one of a horrible experience where, no matter how hard he and his family tried, it just was not enough.
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Trends And Treatment
To chart how heroin usage is leaving an impact in Eastern Iowa, the statistics from substance abuse counselors and the stories from the people on the front lines point to a problem.
An April 2013 story by Rick Smith in the Cedar Rapids Gazette reports much higher numbers of heroin clients at the Area Substance Abuse Council treatment facility in Cedar Rapids.
ASAC Statistics on People From Linn County Entering Treatment With Heroin As The Primary Problem:
On Thursday, Kelly Reitzler, ASAC Director of Adult Residential Services, said the number of clients with heroin as a primary problem jumped to 91 for all of 2013, marking a dramatic climb in five years.
"We're definitely getting a lot more calls from family members and individuals themselves who are reporting heroin as a drug of choice and seeking help," said Reitzler.
Yet help for heroin can be so difficult as the addiction is one of the most intense in substance abuse.
"One of the highest relapse rates and the least likely to complete treatment because of the physical and mental addiction they have to it," said Reitzler.
Reitzler said a profile around a heroin addicts at ASAC are white and started in high school.
"It's happening to the families that you least expect, where both parents have careers and are working and the kids are going to school," said Reitzler. "They're not dropouts."
For treatment opportunities, Reitzler and Jelinek agree that heroin addicts may not receive the necessary hospital treatment when they seek help.
"The hospitals have pretty strict criteria to admitting clients for detox and heroin addicts, generally, don't meet that criteria," said Reitzler.
Jelinek recalled an experience with his son where a hospital did not admit Sam because he did not have heroin in his system.
"We brought him home for four days of throwing up, he was hot and cold, diarrhea, sweats and sick," said Jelinek. "It's an ugly thing to go through."
Linn County Medical Examiner Don Linder noticed the rise in heroin-related deaths during a KCRG-TV 9 investigation back in May 2011. Nearly three years later, that trend continues.
"We are certainly seeing an increase in heroin-related deaths," Linder told us on Thursday. "I also can tell you that we're seeing an increase in heroin-related visits to the emergency department at (UnityPoint Health) St. Luke's. It is quite noticeable."
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Where Does It Start? How To Stop It?
Cedar Rapids police say heroin continues to be a threat, calling it one of the most addictive and devastating drugs they see today.
"People addicted to heroin continue to risk death in choosing to use this drug," said Cpt. Steven O'Konek on Thursday. "We see a path to the use of heroin through the abuse of prescription drugs."
Reitzler said many heroin addicts secure those prescription drugs from a parent's medicine cabinet or, through athletics or a traumatic incident, became addicted to painkillers, leading to heroin.
Watching his son's addiction become darker as the months went on, Jelinek said Sam never resorted to robbing or stealing but the signs were there.
"You catch them lying," Jelinek said of the signs a parent should watch for. "You know they have a job but they don't have the money. Things start missing. They get more comfortable and they can get away with being high around you and you start catching on with that."
Jelinek also implores any parent worried about heroin addiction with a child to put aside any feelings of shame.
"Don't be embarrassed. It doesn't mean you're a bad parent. It just means your kid has a problem. Kids have all kinds of problems. This is no different.
"If you give up, you're going to end up burying them."
Extended Interview With Jon Jelinek:
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