In the News

Medinah Mom Copes With Son's Heroin Death by Saving Others

Daily Herald - April 20, 2015 - Louie Miceli's smile lights up his mother's dining room. The large black-and-white photo of Louie is the centerpiece on a crowded table, surrounded by dozens of mementos that tell the story of his short life.

A Driscoll Catholic football jersey lies near snapshots of the handsome young man playing sports, having fun with friends and vacationing in Italy.

"He was the kid to be around," says his mother, Felicia Miceli.

Two worn, handwritten letters on notebook paper, addressed to his mother and brother, reflect more difficult times.

In them, Louie apologized for past mistakes and thanked his family for sticking by his side as he struggled with heroin addiction.

Read the complete Daily Herald article here.  Photo taken by Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

Read the complete DailyHerald 14 part series, "Heroin in the Suburbs: Through Their Eyes"

Heroin Facts From a Mom

Daily Herald - April 20, 2015 - Through her work with the LTM Foundation, Felicia Miceli has learned a lot about heroin, from preventive measures that could have been taken, to acceptance of the life-changing effects the drug has on users and their families.

Most important, she concluded, is this: "You're going to make mistakes in your life, but heroin is not one that can be made."

Here are a few things Miceli wants others to know about heroin and its devastating consequences.

- Heroin addiction often stems from painkiller addiction.

One of Felicia's biggest regrets is her acceptance of her late son Louie's recreational drinking and pot smoking.  

The social pressures kept steering Louie down the wrong path, to the point that his friends encouraged him to try some painkillers his younger brother had been prescribed for a sports injury. He quickly got hooked.

Read the entire article at the Daily Hearld

Read the complete Daily Herald series, "Heroin in the Suburbs: Through Their Eyes"

Lawmakers Propose to Slow Heroin Use With New Bills

Daily Herald - March 1, 2015 - A uniform statewide system that tracks drug overdoses could help Illinois address widespread heroin use in the suburbs, a local lawmaker says.

While exact details of the program have not been finalized, a proposal to create such a system would be part of a larger legislative package that's in the works right now aimed at combating heroin use, state Rep. Sam Yingling of Grayslake said.

Read the complete article at the Daily Herald.

Read the complete Daily Hearld series, "Heroin in the Suburbs: Through Their Eyes"

Suburban Nonprofit Groups Strike Back Against Heroin

Daily Herald - December 1, 2014  Maybe it's a grieving mother on a crusade. Maybe it's a group of friends who need a place to stay sober ... and still have fun.

Maybe it's a sister motivated by a brother's death, or a health agency doing its part, or a ramped-up drug prevention campaign.

Maybe it's an entire country saying, "Enough is enough." 

Nonprofit groups working to combat the heroin epidemic are taking a variety of forms and approaches as people affected by the drug work to raise awarenes of its dangers, promote sober living and prevent others from using.

Click here to read the complete article.

Village of Addison Proclamation

ADDISON August 9, 2014  Rich Veenstra, Mayor of the Village of Addison, on behalf of the LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation and other similar organizations, proclaims Saturday, August 9, 2014, "LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation Day" in the Village of Addison, Illinois.

LTM Speaks at Corpus Christi Church Heroin Awareness Event

LTM Speaks at Corpus Christi Church Heroin Awareness Event

Carol Stream, IL - December 8, 2013 - Attendees at the Sunday December 8 2013 event heard a disturbing report on Heroin usage in DuPage County. The Chicago western suburbs have seen an increase in Heroin use, especially with young people.

Corpus Christi Church in Carol Stream, Shining Light, NFP along with Corpus Christi, LTM Foundation and other community partners hosted an informational meeting on the growing use of heroin in the western suburbs and the surrounding communities. Video by LTM Media Dept.

WGN Interview - Heroin epidemic plaguing DuPage County

WGN Interview - Heroin epidemic plaguing DuPage County

Heroin use is up all over the United States, but it’s especially bad in Illinois.

Heroin is a drug that is cheap and available just about everywhere. A $10 dollar bag can keep someone high for a day or two. And addicts no longer have to drive down I290, the so called “Heroin Highway,” to get to the west side of Chicago to buy it. Drug dealers will deliver heroin right to your front door.

Read more:

LTM speaks at Batavia High School Heroin Forum

By ERIC SCHELKOPF @shawmedia
Watch the video here

Batavia, IL – October 11, 2014 - Kane County Coroner Rob Russell had a simple message for those attending Thursday’s Heroin abuse, prevention and community resources seminar at Batavia High School – don’t try Heroin. “Please don’t go down this road,” Russell said. “I don’t want to have to tell your loved ones that you are dead.”

Russell was one of several speakers who spoke at the seminar. As Russell noted, Heroin use in Kane County is on the rise.

“In Kane County, we had 27 heroin deaths last year, and 14 so far this year,” he said.

There are people behind the numbers, such as 24-year-old Louie Miceli, one of 43 people in DuPage County who died of Heroin abuse last year.

“Our hope is to reach teens and adults before Heroin does,” said Kristen Gutierrez, Executive Director of LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation and Miceli’s older sister. “He had his whole life in front of him and Heroin stole it away.”

She told those in the audience to watch for warning signs.

“Prescription drug abuse is a gateway to Heroin,” Gutierrez said. “Addiction is a disease and the addiction is progressive.”

She said those kids experimenting with Heroin don’t know that Heroin is “so deadly and dangerous.”

As Mike Moran, executive director of Aurora-based Breaking Free drug counseling services explained, Heroin is an opiate that brings the brain pleasure.

“All of our brains have pleasure centers,” he said. “There are certain substances that activate pleasure centers in our brains.”

And Heroin is highly addictive, Moran said.

“Heroin is extremely effective in hijacking the brain,” he said. “You no longer have the choice of using or not using.”

Fortunately, there is hope, said recovering Heroin addict Richard Hertz.

“I’ve been six years and six months free from Heroin,” Hertz told the audience. “You can be stronger than it and you can prevent it. We all want to stop this addiction from starting in the first place.”

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Sending A Message About Drug Use With A Fake Graveyard

  Faux tombstones line a lawn in Medinah, Ill. It's a campaign to heighten awareness about an epidemic of heroin and pain pill overdoses — a prelude to International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31. Cheryl Corley/NPR

In the suburbs of Chicago, a stark reminder of the toll of heroin and prescription-pill addiction is making the rounds as a lawn exhibit. One hundred fake tombstones and banners are set up at a new location every week as a precursor to International Overdose Awareness Day.

In Medinah, a suburb northwest of Chicago, the houses are swanky and the lots are large. The country club has long been home to headline golf tournaments. On a recent day, across the street from a neighborhood park, Felicia Micelli stands next to a long line of painted mock tombstones that she and others have placed on her expansive lawn.

"What we have out here are a visual of how many people die in America a day from overdose," Micelli says.

Felicia and her husband, Lou Micelli, started a foundation named for their son after his death two years ago. Louis Theodore Micelli was popular and an athlete who got hooked on painkillers and later heroin. He was 24 years old when he died. Micelli says people need to pay attention to what she calls an overdose epidemic.

"It just angers me and it makes me want to cry," she says, "because maybe my son would still be here if people were talking about it and doing something about it."

The heroin trade on Chicago's West Side is strong. It is especially booming after Mexican drug cartels made the city a Midwestern hub, and it's been a silent scourge for many suburban areas. Kathie Kane-Willis, the director of Roosevelt University's Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, says the traveling tombstone idea was inspired by the Names Quilt Project that activists started long ago to fight AIDS.

"During the 1980s and 1990s, there was so much shame associated with it, people didn't want to initially own that," Kane-Willis says. "[And] that was this community; that was happening to these people. And the idea about this was to say, 'No, this is happening all around you. You just might not see it.' "

So advocacy groups, like the one led by Chelsea Laliberte, have worked to bring the display to different neighborhoods. Laliberte says when her younger brother, Alex, died from an overdose at age 20, it devastated her family.

"Of course there are areas where other drugs are more prominent than heroin, but here in Chicagoland, heroin is our issue right now and so are prescription pills," Laliberte says. "Because it's happening. It's taking lives all the time."

The tombstones, she says, are meant to shock people. Marian Huhman, a University of Illinois professor who specializes in public health social marketing campaigns, says it can be difficult to measure the effectiveness of such programs.

"But I want to emphasize that [it] doesn't detract from the importance of these kinds of grass-roots efforts that are a very inexpensive way to get an important public health message out there," Huhman says.

Back at Felicia Micelli's, cars do slow down as drivers take a look at the lawn exhibit.

"Well, sorry that you find yourself having to display this, but good to create awareness [because] problems are everywhere," says Mike Gilley, a neighbor walking by who stopped to talk.

The last stop for the traveling tombstones will come at the end of the month, at a park where activists and families will give out resources and commemorate those who have died from an overdose.

Originaly posted at

Heroin in the headlines - Addison foundation wants to talk about the deadly drug.


ADDISON – When Louie Theodore Miceli died of a heroin overdose at 24 years old, his family vowed to change the conversation about the drug that’s taken a growing number of lives in Chicago’s suburbs by creating the Addison-based LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation in his name.

“[People associate] heroin addicts with people in the back alley, with homeless people,” Louie’s older sister, Kristen Gutierrez said of the misconceptions people have about heroin addicts.

“That era is over,” she said. “It’s football players. It’s cheerleaders. It’s the kid next door. My brother was the kid next door.”

After spending five minutes with the Miceli family’s jokes and warm smiles, Gutierrez’ words come to life.

“He wasn’t a troubled kid at all,” said his father, Lou Miceli.

Louie Miceli’s favorite day was Sunday, his family said, because he loved family dinner at his parents’ home in Medinah. He played football on state championship teams at Driscoll Catholic High School, had no shortage of friends and attended Benedictine University. His father said more than 3,000 people attended his wake in August 2012 at Salerno’s Rosedale Chapels in Roselle.

The foundation launched its first event at the beginning of June at Stardust Bowl in Addison. About 120 merchants donated prizes to be raffled off or bought through a silent auction.

“We don’t have our [nonprofit] designation yet,” Gutierrez said. “So they just did it with nothing in return.”

Since beginning the foundation less than a year ago, the Miceli family said they meet people all the time who knew someone who died using heroin, but no one seems to want to talk about it. Gutierrez recalled a woman who lowered her voice and whispered the word “heroin” to her in a recent conversation.

Louie’s mother, Felicia Miceli, knows firsthand how difficult it is to talk about her son’s addiction to heroin.

“I’m sure people believe that it reflects on our parenting skills,” she said. “It’s sometimes hard.”

Kristen Gutierrez thinks that stigma is the biggest obstacle to spreading awareness and educating young people about the risks of trying heroin. One goal of the LTM Foundation is to reform the blanket approach to drug education.

Not that we’re condoning other kinds of recreational drugs,” said Gutierrez, who thinks placing marijuana and heroin into the same overarching category titled “drugs” doesn’t save lives.

According to DuPage County Coroner statistics, Louie Miceli was one of 43 heroin victims in the county last year. As of June 11, 16 people died in the county as a direct result of heroin use this year.

“I know my brother, Lou,” Kristen Gutierrez said. “If he would have known the person it made him, I know that he would not have touched it.”

Louie, like many people his age, would drink with his friends on the weekends. Gutierrez remembers him telling her he also smoked marijuana, but that was it. When his brother, Vinny, underwent surgery for a sports injury, the two began experimenting with the leftover pain killers. Then, Louie Miceli tried heroin at a party, probably not even realizing what it was in powder form, his family said.

“You don’t casually use heroin,” Gutierrez said. “You use heroin to become an addict, if not the first time, definitely by the second or third.”

For Louie Miceli, it just took that one time, even with two stints in rehabs, finding a connection with Jesus Christ and his family’s constant support. His family created the LTM Foundation with the goal of saving others like his 23-year-old brother, Vinny Miceli, who will be clean one year in August.

“If we could spare someone from this devastation, from this pain, it’s worth it,” Felicia Miceli said.

Lou Miceli, who owns Miceli’s Deli in Chicago, says he tells everyone at his store about his late son and his battle with heroin.

“I’m not ashamed of it,” Lou Miceli said. “It was a disease; it wasn’t him.”