NEW LENOX, IL — Nearly 10 years after the loss of their son to addiction, a New Lenox couple has poured their grief into the creation of a facility designed around substance abuse awareness and treatment.

Trent Bartolomucci was 21 years old when he died in October 2014. His death was a heartbreaking chapter in his years-long battle with addiction, his mother Kim Bartolomucci said, and a stunning turn of events after he seemed to have overcome it.

“We thought he beat it, but with addiction, you can never let your guard down,” Bartolomucci said. “You always have to keep fighting it.”

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Following his death, Bartolomucci sought an outlet for her grief, though stumbling her way through it.

“I don’t want Trent’s name to go away, or anyone else to suffer this,” she said. “I knew I didn’t want to go around and talk to people about addiction—I just couldn’t do it at that time.”

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The family started a foundation in his name, aimed at building a workforce of addiction counselors through partnerships and programs at Governors State University. They also bestowed scholarships to students pursuing master’s degrees in addiction studies.

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Now feeling the need to channel efforts in another way, the family worked with Governors State in the creation of The Trent Bartolomucci Behavioral Health Lab. The lab, which is in a wing of the college, will serve as a focal point for education and training related to substance use disorders and treatment. It will be used to provide future substance use counselors and other health professionals with important experiential learning opportunities supporting individuals with substance use disorders and their families, and to provide practice working as a team with other professionals.

Students and trainees will engage in role plays and simulations in small groups, and eventually will provide some community counseling, with faculty able to observe and supervise virtually on a secure video system. The lab’s comfortable, welcoming setting, with unintrusive technology, will provide a secure and confidential environment for substance use counseling services and simulations.

“Now everyone’s going to benefit,” Bartolomucci said, “and they’re going to touch thousands and thousands of life. We’re equipping other people to be able to do this work.”

‘Thrown Into This World’

Trent was raised in New Lenox and attended private school until eighth grade, before attending Lincoln-Way Central High School where he played soccer his freshman year. Soon after, he began experimenting with drugs, his mother said. His grades dropped, and his parents intervened. They sent him to a treatment center. When he returned, he struggled in waves.

“It grew, as all addictions grow,” Bartolomucci said.

After graduation, he attended junior college in Carterville, where his GPA suffered, but he connected with health classes. Eventually, he attained his associate’s degree. He then Alabama, Colorado, Indiana University, and University of Missouri—and was accepted into all of them.

“All of a sudden, he got that love back for learning,” Bartolomucci said.

He chose University of Missouri, where he maintained a 4.0 GPA and attained his master’s degree in the accelerated accounting program.

Then, he relapsed. Family visited with him in September 2014, just a month before his death.

His death compelled his parents to help, leading to the creation of the foundation and now, to the lab bearing his name.

With the Trent Bartolomucci Behavioral Health Lab at its core, the Department of Addictions Studies and Behavioral Health aims to be a strategic hub of education, service, and support for students, trainees, and community members, Governors State University said in a release. It will bring together faculty and staff from across the University, in the College of Health and Human Services, the College of Education and Human Development, and the Counseling and Wellness Center, to advance the ultimate goal of increasing access to evidence-based treatment.

“I always wanted to keep the resources in this area,” Bartolomucci told Patch. “I could have joined forces with a big university, but it’s not helping people here.

“… I got thrown into this world because I had to,” Bartolomucci said. “We’re going to be able to touch thousands this way.”

The Trent Bartolomucci Behavioral Health Lab, 1 University Parkway, will open Thursday, June 27 at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

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