In 2012, there were 32 drug-related deaths in Peoria County. For Coroner Johnna Ingersoll, even one is too many. She said, "Those numbers are concerning to me."
Ingersoll is leading the substance abuse prevention coalition and with it, she hopes to combat a growing drug problem in central Illinois.
It's the first of its kind for Peoria County and its focus is primarily on the youngest drug users. Ingersoll said, "Our focus with the SAP coalition is on the youth and young adults between the ages of 13 and 25."
The coalition's first order of business is a survey that will circulate through the county's schools and it will give leaders a better idea of where prevention and education needs to begin.
Sergeant First Class Steven Starks works with similar coalitions in Tazewell and Woodford Counties. He said assessing and addressing the problem is number one. He said, "That will be able to get a data assessment so we'll know where do we need to start and from there the coalition begins to come together and find out some root causes."
Ingersoll said she sees the evidence of drug abuse when it's too late. She said it's a killer and that's what is driving her to take action. "Due to the nature of my work, absolutely, I would love to see the number of drug-related deaths in Peoria County decrease."
The SAP coalition will meet again in March.