The Illinois State Crime Commission says heroin use is an epidemic. A Will County official says it should be labeled a "medical emergency." In one Illinois county, heroin overdoses increased over 200 percent between 2008 and 2012.
The following are the faces of fatal suburban heroin overdoses. Families remember their sons and daughters ...
John Kacena, 20, of Naperville, Ill., was known by friends and family as fun and funny. He was open and gregarious, able to communicate with anyone in any circumstance. He played hockey and baseball competitively. At the time of his death in 2012, he was enrolled in college.
The non-profit organization, Open Heart, Open Eyes
, was started in his memory.
Video: John's mother on his heroin use and death
Credit: Kacena family
Alex Laliberte, 20, of Buffalo Grove, Ill., was a very sweet, kind and funny young man. His family says he was handsome and always carried that charm and charisma with him wherever he went. He would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need, and enjoyed the opportunity to give back especially with children and elderly people.
Above all things, he loved hip hop music. The connection he had with the lyrics and stories told by his favorite artists -- Notorious B.I.G, Lil Wayne, Wu Tang Clan, 2Pac moved him. He was always a big athlete - basketball and football were his favorites and the ones he continued playing throughout high school.
Credit: Laliberte family
Brian Thrush, 23, of Ottawa, Ill., was everyone's best friend and genuinely cared about people. He believed life was full of possibilities and he wanted to experience them all - with no regrets. Brian loved music, cooking, working with his hands, and the relationships he had with his family and friends. His infectious smile and natural charisma made him very popular and a natural leader.
Brian had an unwavering positive outlook on life and a wide range of interests. At one time he wanted to be an architect, a businessman, or an EMT and never doubted he could accomplish his goals. But most of all he wanted to be a good father (his daughter was born seven months after he died), a loving son and supportive brother.
John Qualtier, 20, of Naperville, Ill., was an avid sports fan. He loved the Blackhawks and Cubs -- and he loved his family.
Credit: Qualtier family
Megan Miller, 18, of Naperville, Ill., was a spirited, creative, loving young girl with an infectious smile who enjoyed singing, playing violin and drawing.
Ryan Warner, 17, of Naperville, Ill., was a happy, fun loving, person who loved his family. They describe Ryan as a nonconformist, innately knowing that his path to happiness was different, unique and less frequented. He had a natural interest and ability for all things creative, especially art, he loved to travel and no doubt would have spent much time exploring distant places. Ryan was an inspiration in so many ways.
Just before his death in 2009, Jeremy Stom, 18, of Hawthorn Woods, Ill., had enlisted in the Air Force and was due to leave for basic training in a few weeks.
His sister says Jeremy loved kids and was the best uncle to their brother's boys. He also worked with kids as a lifeguard and swim teacher at the YMCA in Vernon Hills for a few years.
"Jeremy loved to cook and was always taking notes from his mother and grandmother on their Puerto Rican dishes so that he could get them perfect. He was very proud to be 50 percent Puerto Rican! (Although with dirty blonde hair and blue eyes you would never have guessed!)" says his sister.
He was a great writer. He wrote poems and song lyrics. And he could play the guitar.
Overall, Jeremy was a really sweet, compassionate, gentle and kind-hearted young man who was loved by everyone he met.
Nick Beinlich, 18, of Lincolnshire, Ill., enjoyed spending weekends with his grandfather and had a passion for race car driving.
His family created Nicholas' Gift of Hope
to promote drug awareness and prevention.
Billy Roberts, 19, of Homer Glen, Ill., was popular, well liked and well adjusted - no one can believe this could happen to him.
His father is a co-founder of HERO Foundation: The Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization
. The foundation was created following the deaths of Billy and his friend, Matthew Kirk, in 2009, to bring attention to the growing heroin problem in their community.
Matthew, of Homer Glen, Ill., was described by his family as a fun-loving person, an average student, a thoughtful and good son who got caught up with heroin while trying to be cool and accepted by his peers. By the time of his passing, he was totally ashamed and embarrassed by the way his life had changed due to the heroin. His friends say it should never have happened to Matt, he just wasn't that type. He will forever be missed and is loved by all.
His father is a co-founder of HERO Foundation: The Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization. The foundation was created following the deaths of Matthew and his friend, Billy Roberts, in 2009, to bring attention to the growing heroin problem in their community.
Owen Elberts, 20, of Coal City, Ill., had the love for go-kart racing since he was 9 years old. He won many track championships and traveled the country to compete," according to his father.
Owen studied to become a professional welder and was employed by Star Con International at Citgo Oil Refinery in Lemont. He was also taking classes to further his career.
Michael Anthony Bartlett, 22, of Island Lake, Ill., loved people and made friends wherever he went. He was a caretaker for sure and was always ready and willing to help others. Mike was an avid sportsman. He loved music more than anything and wrote many songs.
His mother says he cherished his brothers and sister and would always tell her it was his goal to set a great example for them. After struggling with addiction, when Mike was sober he wanted to go to school to become a counselor to help others with their addiction. Sadly he never got that chance.
Kaitlyn Moak, 18, of New Lenox, Ill., had a bright future ahead of her. She was looking forward to going to Illinois State University and studying psychology.
Kaitlyn was a vivacious girl whose interests were as varied as her personality. She participated in multiple school activities including being part of the choir and learning to play guitar when she was younger. Her mother says Kaitlyn's friends often looked to her for help and guidance, and she was always there to help them the best she could. Kaitlyn was definitely older than her years in many ways, but she always had a playful sense of humor.
Daniel Healy, 19, of Joliet, Ill., loved to cook and his stuffed cheeseburger was the best. He had talked about attending culinary school in the future because then he could make a living doing something he really enjoyed.
He especially loved to go frolfing (Frisbee golfing) and had a dream of owning a tricked-out van with 26 inch rims or bigger if he could get away with it -- sort of like the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine.
Breanna Troxwell, 20, of Montgomery, Ill., was a beautiful girl who loved her family and friends and was loved by everyone in return.
According to her mother, Breanna enjoyed spending time with her friends shopping. She had a compassionate heart and was taking classes in the medical field. Tragically, in 2009, Breanna passed away the first time she tried heroin. "Our hearts are broken without her."
Louie Miceli, 24, of Addison, Ill., loved his family and friends intensely. His mother says he always made people feel welcome an accepted. When he was in the fifth grade he wanted to be in the NFL, marry a news reporter, and drive a Maserati.
In the wake of his death, Louie's family established the LTM Foundation
to bring awareness to the devastating effects of heroin.
Derrick Tachie, 17, of Naperville, Ill., was a very happy young boy. He loved people and his nickname was "Smiles".
His parents say he was very much interested in football and had big dreams of becoming a successful investment banker.
Credit: Tachie family
William "Billy" Burgy, 22, of Orland Park, Ill., was a budding engineering prospect. As a junior in high school, he constructed a 12-inch long bridge out of toothpicks to compete in statewide competition at the Illinois Institute fo technology. His bridge finished 5th overall, supporting 43.4 lbs. before it broke.
According to his father, Billy always said he enjoyed helping others and would rather be a counselor.