$1 million gift will help fight drugs in Illinois

Jul 19, 2012

A private donor has come through with a grant to make up for state cuts to drug prevention. Five years ago, Illinois was spending about $7.5 million to keep young people from trying drugs.

This year, the state's spending $1 million, and the future is cloudy; the governor tried to cut all of the funding.

Larry Goodman of Highland Park says the cut is unconscionable when teens across Illinois are increasingly using heroin.

"There has to be room in the budget for what we're talking about, because I believe it's more important than anything else," he said. "You see, if we spend money on prevention, you have to spend a LOT less money on treatment. There's no comparison.  You save billions of dollars by preventing.  It's a no-brainer."

Goodman, who owns a commercial real estate firm, is stepping in to make up much of the difference. He’s giving more than $1 million dollars over three years to fund the Teen Institute, a Springfield-based drug prevention program that does outreach statewide.

Goodman says he was compelled to do something in honor of his granddaughter, Cebrin, who grew up in Chicago and died in 2002 at the age of 22.

"She was straight A's, she was always the head of any class she was in, she was an unusual person," he said. Cebrin started taking drugs when she was 14 or 15, eventually turning to heroin\ … "and finally, she overdosed."

Goodman says he's going to push to get Governor Pat Quinn to be more involved with prevention efforts. Many communities in Illinois say heroin use is on the rise, especially among teens and of all income levels.

Goodman's donation will fund the Springfield-based Teen Institute, which does outreach statewide.  The head of that program, Sarah Potter, says it will initially focus on regions where it sees a growing need ... including the northern tip of the state, around Rockford; downstate south of Interstate 64; and a pocket just north of Urbana and Champaign in central Illinois.