Officials fear link between local, Chicago overdoses

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 |

VALPARAISO |
Porter County Drug Task Force Coordinator Bob Taylor fears that several local heroin overdoses may be linked with a potent or tainted batch of the drug believed responsible for an unusually large number of deaths on Chicago's South Side.

Taylor hopes the local Great Lakes Lab will be able to make a determination using a couple empty plastic bags taken from a 22-year-old Portage man, who died Saturday from a suspected heroin overdose.

Shawn Polewski died at Porter Portage Hospital Campus after he was found not breathing at 11:11 a.m. at a house in the 5300 block of Buckeye Avenue in Portage, police spokesman Cpl. John Ryan said.

Officials are waiting on toxicology reports after an autopsy Sunday failed to confirm the cause of death, according to the county coroner's office.

The death comes a week after 19-year-old Meaghan Greene was found dead of a suspected heroin overdose at her home on Starwood Drive in Westchester Township.

She was discovered sitting cross-legged on her bed, slumped forward and holding a syringe in her right hand, police said.

A 26-year-old Portage Township man was also treated at a hospital Jan. 23 for a suspected heroin overdose, and an overdose is suspected in the Jan. 22 discovery of a deceased man at Travel America Travel Center on U.S. 20 in Porter.

Taylor said he heard last week about the spike in heroin-related deaths on Chicago's South Side. He read a Chicago Tribune article Monday that quotes police as saying they are unsure whether the heroin in question is stronger than usual or mixed with another potent substance.

The area of Chicago is a major source of heroin for Porter County, he has said.

Taylor said he had been familiar with Polewski, having arrested the young man in 2004 for dealing the drug. Polewski went on to take part in a detox and treatment program, and appeared to be doing well, Taylor said.

Taylor said he was contacted Saturday about the Polewski's death and was given the task of breaking the news to the young man's grandmother.

"Our death toll keeps going up, up, up," he said.