By the time 30 seconds had passed, Sean and Brittany Adams had lost their roof and most of their possessions.
The U.S.’s top doctor, Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome Adams, released an advisory Thursday emphasizing the importance of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone in fighting the opioid epidemic.
“First of all, this is the first public advisory the surgeon general has put out in 13 years. That should tell everyone that the situation is serious,” Dr. Roueen Rafeyan, chief medical officer for Gateway Foundation, said.
In his statement, Adams lists a variety of people for whom administration of the drug can be life-saving and said, “… knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life.”
According to information on the surgeon general’s website, www.surgeongeneral.com, overdose deaths from prescription and illicit opioids doubled from 21,089 in 2010 to 42,249 in 2016. The steep increase is attributed to proliferation of illicitly made fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids.
Another factor in the opioid epidemic is the long term use of prescription opioids for pain. Those patients are at increased risk for accidental overdose, even when patients normally the medication as prescribed.
Dr. Rafeyan said the number of deaths from opioid overdoses continues to rise.
“We lost 60,000 Americans last year,” he said.
Rafeyan said naloxone is an opioid antagonist. It reverses effects of opioids and has been used in medical settings for a number of years.
“Without it, a patient will go into respiratory arrest and die, so it is a life-saving intervention,” he said.
At Gateway Foundation treatment facilities, staff members have consistently been seeing more patients coming in with opioid use disorder. Rafeyan added that the problem is not limited to the inner city. It is a problem in suburban and rural areas, too.
“What we are seeing is affluent, suburban young kids who come into treatment with two to three years of use,” Rafeyan said. “For a great number of them, the gateway to opioids has been prescription medicines like Vicodin and Oxycontin. “
The problem is not just limited to heroin. When they are using heroin, it is cut with other medications, like Fentanyl, synthetic fentanyls and benzodiazepines.
“Kids get their hands on it and start taking it, not knowing the risks,” Rafeyan said.
Rafeyan, who is in his mid-50s, said his generation grew up with the explosive images of heroin addicts dying in an alley with a syringe in their arms. So, the drugs of choice became marijuana or hallucinogens. Today’s youth have not been exposed to those images.
He said the use of naloxone to reverse overdoses is not the answer to the opioid epidemic, but only a part of the answer. He called more federal funding to make naloxone available, but said it needs to be used alongside treatment of the opioid use disorder.
“I’m ok with a lot of Band-Aids, but we need more federal funding to increase treatment,” Rafeyan said.
He stressed that treatments are effective, but addition is a chronic disease like any other chronic disease. Treatment needs to be ongoing, just like it would be for high blood pressure or diabetes.
“If I get diagnosed with diabetes, I have to make lifestyle change, dietary changes, incorporate exercise, monitor blood sugar and take medication,” Rafeyan said. “Addition treatment is the same. You have to modify lifestyle, go to meetings, have a sponsor, go to the doctor, take medication, learn coping skills and avoid stress. As long as patients do this, they stay sober.”
Since many patients seeking treatment are on Medicaid, more funding is needed. Rafeyan said newer products or version of drugs to counteract the effects of opioids are available, such as implantable medication that works for six months and a once-monthly version. They immediately stop the high from opioids.
“Can I get either for my patients using Medicaid? No,” Rafeyan said. “The pill version can wear off and patients can start using again. With the implant, you cannot do that. It’s in there.”
A’nna Jurich of Gateway Foundation in Carbondale said they send patients home from treatment with naloxone and train family members to administer it.
“It can turn around an overdose and save somebody from dying before an ambulance could get there,” Jurich said.
Jurich said it is important for people to be aware of naloxone. Even with people who are using prescriptions at home for a medical condition, it might be helpful to have naloxone at home.
“It is safe. Even if a child got a hold of it, it is safe,” Jurich said. “It isn’t just for people shooting heroin in the alley.”
CARBONDALE — A tense scene unfolded Thursday afternoon as Southern Illinois University Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno addressed students occupying his office in protest of a proposed police academy.
Montemagno told the “No Cop Academy” group, comprised of about two dozen undergraduates and community members, that he planned to table the creation of the proposed Public Safety Institute and would instead leave the decision to faculty within the soon-to-be-established School of Justice and Public Safety.
But that announcement didn’t appease students, who had hunkered down inside the lavishly appointed lobby of the chancellor’s office in Anthony Hall after marching across campus. They said they planned to continue their sit-in until Montemagno announced the academy was definitively canceled. As of Thursday evening, they remained inside the building.
Montemagno first introduced the idea of the Public Safety Institute — then called Police Academy — with the rollout of his massive restructuring plan, which seeks to eliminate the university’s departments and reorganize degree programs by newly formed colleges and schools. In an earlier version of his plan, the School of Justice and Public Safety was called the School of Homeland Security.
The leaderless student movement organized in March in response to the planned formation of the police training institute, and its members contend that police contribute to racial inequality and that universities should challenge the status quo rather than uphold it.
“By occupying black and brown neighborhoods and enforcing laws written by and for the white ruling class, the police are the primary agent tasked with keeping things exactly the way they are. By targeting and arresting and murdering people of color at wildly disproportionate rates, the police uphold and indeed make possible America’s racial order,” the group declares in a video shared on social media.
During the march, students wended through several campus buildings where classes were in session, chanting, “Hey, Salukis, what you gonna do? No cop academy at SIU!” behind a banner that read, “Strong Communities Make Police Obsolete.”
Mikala Barrett, a junior majoring in political science, said that as a black woman and a lesbian, she identifies as a minority student. She said she believes the police system oppresses marginalized people.
“Personally, I feel that if they want to bring that to our campus, it’s going to redirect the purpose of our campus. It is literally rebranding SIU as a white institution,” Barrett said.
Barrett said she doesn’t feel safe around police officers.
“Don’t get me wrong — I have family members that are within the police system, but the police system as a whole oppresses the minority. I get that there might be individual people that are actually good police officers, but until you address the whole issue overall, we don’t want a cop academy here at SIU,” Barrett said.
Sam Beard, a senior and SIUC’s student representative on the Board of Trustees, told protesters that police only care about control.
“We refuse to sit by idly while we see our school, our home, fall victim to the chancellor’s insidious restructuring plan. What this is, is a people’s movement, a liberatory movement. … These administrators, from the chancellor to the board of trustees, care about one thing and one thing only, and that is control. But they do not control this university. We, the students, we, the community and the staff and the faculty, we control this university,” Beard said.
The faculty’s decision on the Public Safety Institute will take place after the School of Justice and Public Safety is formed, Montemagno said.
“I want to divert that decision to the faculty, and have the faculty who would be engaged to make the decision on whether or not they want a program or they don’t want a program,” the chancellor told the students in Anthony Hall, “and I’m sure they’ll make that decision in consultation with the students, student needs and demands, and that’s the way we should govern. Don’t you agree?”
One student told the chancellor that faculty members in the School of Justice and Public Safety would probably approve the institute, but Montemagno said he didn’t know that. The student responded that he did, but he didn’t want to say it.
“Academic decisions rest with the faculty,” Montemagno said.
“Are we not the actual ones indulging in the academic programs here at the school? As the students, we should have some type of say in what we want our curricula to be. Actually, as the students I feel we should have a large say in what the curricula should be, especially since most of us are taking out loans just to be here,” freshman Jahi Parham said.
Students questioned the chancellor about the purpose of his restructuring plan. Montemagno responded to a few questions and then said he had to leave for a meeting, but that the students were welcome to stay as long as they liked.
In a statement emailed to The Southern on Thursday afternoon, Montemagno said, “I continue to believe that SIU Carbondale can bring together the expertise of its faculty to create an innovative institute focused on training culturally competent law enforcement officers. However, I think the ultimate recommendation about whether we go forward should come from the faculty who would lead the delivery of the institute’s programs.”
While occupying the chancellor’s office Thursday evening, students launched a website outlining the group’s objectives.
“We are happy to hear that the Chancellor and his administration are not personally committed to seeing the construction of a cop academy on the SIU campus, but kicking the can down the road on this matter is not enough,” a portion of the statement reads. “We need a firm assertion that there will not be a cop academy at SIU. We intend to accept the Chancellor’s hospitality here in his office until we get it. We invite everyone else who opposes the cop academy proposal to join us. Bring snacks.”
MARION — The National Weather Service has rated the tornado that tore a path of destruction through Williamson and Saline counties Tuesday night was an EF2 with peak wind speeds of 125 mph. Two other EF1 tornadoes also struck Williamson County on Tuesday.
By the time 30 seconds had passed, Sean and Brittany Adams had lost their roof and most of their possessions.
The EF2 tornado cut a 12.5-mile path through parts of Williamson and Saline counties, touching down at 5:47 p.m. 7.5 miles southwest of Galatia and lifting at 6:07 p.m. 1.5 miles northeast of Raleigh. Its width was 350 yards.
The National Weather Service's preliminary report says the tornado destroyed three homes and damaged more than a dozen others. Dozens of barns and other structures were destroyed or heavily damaged. Hundreds of trees were snapped or uprooted, the report says.
The first EF1 tornado had peak wind speeds of 105 mph and followed a 10.5-mile path through Williamson County, touching down at 5:17 p.m. in Carterville and lifting at 5:33 p.m. 1.25 miles east of Whiteash. Its path was 125 yards wide.
The Weather Service says at least one to two dozen homes received roof and siding damage. One business in Energy sustained major damage, with considerable loss of roof structure and blown out windows, while another nearby business also had roof and window damage. Barns, sheds and outbuildings were also damaged, and hundreds of trees were snapped, uprooted or had broken limbs. Several power poles were snapped.
MARION — Williamson County officials on Wednesday confirmed a tornado touched down Tuesday night, causing significant damage to homes and businesses.
Another EF1 hit Williamson County on Tuesday, cutting a 2-mile path through Pittsburg. Peak wind speeds were 95 mph. At least a half a dozen homes lost shingles, and one home's windows were blown out. Dozens of trees were broken.
The EF0 that hit Massac County reached peak wind speeds of 85 mph. It touched down one mile northwest of Metropolis and lifted six miles northeast of Metropolis. Numerous buildings had shingle damage, and several large tree limbs were down.
PINCKNEYVILLE — A Pinckneyville man’s 2012 conviction for first-degree murder has been vacated by the Perry County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Robbie Mueller, 22, was sentenced to 37 years in prison in 2012 for his role in the death of 15-year-old Sidnee Stephens in July 2010. On March 22, the state vacated that charge and filed an amended charge of home invasion, a Class X felony.
Mueller pleaded guilty to that charge immediately after it was filed.
Mueller was one of several people charged in connection to Stephens' death.
In May 2016, Mueller’s attorney, Matt Foster, filed a post-conviction petition on behalf of his client. In that document, Foster said Mueller’s former defense attorney, Charles Stegmeyer, never objected to evidence or attempted to show the state’s evidence wasn’t sufficient for a conviction.
Stegmeyer died on Jan. 15, 2017, after a bout with cancer, according to his obituary.
The petition said Mueller never intended to plead guilty to first-degree murder. In 2012, Mueller, who was 17 at the time, entered into a stipulation saying there was sufficient evidence to convict, basically the same as pleading guilty. In a signed affidavit, Mueller said at no time did Stegmeyer tell him that was what he was doing.
The petition filed by Foster also said that without ineffective representation by Stegmeyer, the outcome could have been different.
After he was incarcerated, Mueller said he believed Stegmeyer was working on his appeal, but in September 2015, he learned the attorney was no longer working on his case. Rhonda Mueller, Robbie Mueller’s mother, signed an affidavit stating that Stegmeyer told her that he would continue working on the case until the family fired him or “until he got Robbie out of jail.”
After speaking with the defendant’s mother in January 2015, Stegmeyer confirmed he was still working on the case, but never spoke with Mueller again, court documents say. In September 2015, Stegmeyer told Rhonda Mueller he was no longer working the case and handed the files to the mother.
Stegmeyer never informed the Perry County Circuit Court he was no longer working on the case.
Stegmeyer had his law license suspended in December 2014 for 60 days. The suspension was the result of charges brought by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, claiming that Stegmeyer failed to timely repay a company called Modeso, which provides money to attorneys who settle cases upon condition that those funds are repaid with interest once settlement funds are received.
The loan was in connection to a 2008 case against an ambulance company that was settled two years later.
After learning Stegmeyer was no longer working on his case, Mueller wrote to the court asking for new representation to be appointed because he could no longer afford his own legal team. This is when Foster was appointed.
The new home invasion charge says that on or about July 18 to 19, 2010, Mueller knowingly entered the home of Sidnee Stephens while knowing she was present, armed with a deadly weapon and used force or the threat of force upon her.
Foster told The Southern Illinoisan Tuesday that Stephens' mother was present in court on March 22, and agreed to the new charges.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, April 20.
In March, Chad Bennett II pleaded guilty to home invasion on accountability in the same case; four counts of first-degree murder and one count of concealment of homicidal death were waived with Bennett's guilty plea. Also charged in Stephens' death was her half-sister, Dakota Wall, who was sentenced in 2014 to 26 years in prison. The Southern previously reported that Wall allegedly left the door open so others could come in and scare Stephens.
According to previous reports in The Southern, it was alleged Mueller, James Glazier and Carl Dane entered the house, choked Stephens until she lost consciousness twice, and took her to Beaucoup Creek, where Dane said in court testimony that he shot her two to four times with a handgun after removing her from the trunk of a vehicle. Stephens' body was found by fishermen on July 25, 2010.
Dane committed suicide in his jail cell before being transported to prison after being sentenced to 60 years for murder. Glazier is serving 60 years for a murder charge related to Stephens' death.