It’s well known that the nation is in the midst of an addiction crisis and Rockford is no exception to that trend and it’s affecting more than just adults.
Opioid addiction among adults is a well documented problem, but it has also spread to children in the stateline area, some as young as six years old according to social workers.
“We can’t hide this anymore. We can’t deny that this is a problem anymore,” said Matt Kindler, a social worker with Restore Counseling and Recovery.
Kindler says he has seen too many children struggle with addiction in his line of work, from marijuana, to vaping, and opioids.
Therapist Tom Mlodzik says kids do not even have to try very hard to find the drugs.
“Actually, the most prominent supplier is the medicine cabinet, and their family members,” he said. “Norco is medicine that’s five times stronger than the Vicodin that was out there. It’s all hydrocodone, but a 14-year-old or a 12-year-old doesn’t really understand potency all that much.”
Mlodzik says the problem isn’t just at home, but in the community as well.
“I see how many adolescents, and even younger, and going out into schools and doing workshops with some of the programs that are there, many of them are being impacted,” he said.
As addicted kids get older, Mlodzik says many of them can’t afford prescription drugs and find another way to get their high.
“Something that’s in that category that offers me a management of what I’m looking for – which is heroin – but heroin is a lot cheaper on the street, so I think it’s an affordability sort of thing,” he added.
Both Mlodzik and Kindler agree that the issue can’t be swept under the rug.
“It needs to be on the news more. It needs to be brought up in community forums. It needs to be on billboards and everywhere that we can,” Kindler said. “We can’t shove this in the closet anymore.”
Both Mlodzik and Kindler also spoke highly of the progress the City of Rockford has made in battling opioids, mentioning programs the police are doing with kids and offering help to those who need it.