Are you tired of hearing about the heroin epidemic that’s gripped our local communities? It’s easy to develop an acute case of compassion fatigue reading constant headlines and looking at the photos of anonymous individuals being arrested, overdosing, or even tragically dying on a daily basis.
It’s only human to grow weary, especially if your family hasn’t been touched by this formidable foe yet. Even though my extended family has been affected, I would also rather forget. Then I see the ambulance’s red flashing lights and hear the siren’s wail, and know that an addict who is someone’s loved one has overdosed in one of the motels not far from where I live.
This isn’t just happening in Troy, Piqua, or Sidney, but all over the country. A recent article in USA Today reported, “Addiction to opioids, a class of drugs that includes heroin and prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and fentanyl, has skyrocketed in recent years. … About 1.9 million people have prescription painkiller use disorder, and 435,000 are users of heroin, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.”
In Miami County alone, about 50 people overdose each month on heroin or opiates. Paramedics who have been trained to save lives are called out to administer the drug Narcan in an effort to pull these individuals back from the brink of death. Troy Fire Department Chief Matt Simmons shared in a June 9, 2016, article in the Troy Daily News that the Troy Fire Department has experienced a 275 percent increase in Narcan administrations since 2013.
Someone should do something, and some people are desperately trying to. For instance, Miami County’s local churches are joining forces with professional organizations and social service agencies to bring what’s known as “Hope over Heroin” to the Miami County Fairgrounds on July 8-9. “This two night event will have live music, free food, and real stories of deliverance from addiction. There will also be a “City of Resources” with addiction treatment specialists, counselors, health experts, etc. on site to connect those struggling with addiction and their families to available help.
The “Hope over Heroin” website explains that the event was founded by three pastors in 2014 after “14 deaths from heroin overdose occurred in one week in Hamilton County.” It has been held in a variety of cities with thousands attending, although it isn’t just for the addicted. It’s also for everyone in the community. Aaron Simmons who is both a firefighter and Tipp City pastor told The Dayton Daily News that, “We want the community to be part of waging war against this, seeing this effort be successful and seeing addicts set free.”
Sadly, heroin addiction diminishes the quality of life for everyone. It creates increased crime, spreads diseases like HIV or Hepatitis C, tragically results in neglected children, and is an extreme burden on local law enforcement, medical personnel and facilities, and mental health professionals.
“The most successful places have been where communities have a problem and finally get sick of it,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in a media report. “It is where there is a grass-root effort. We aren’t going to arrest our way out of this problem. We have to get people to treatment, understanding they may fail and fail again.”
As for treatment, in truth there is a great need for long-term residential detox and rehab centers. This epidemic is not going away anytime soon, and preventative education and adequate treatment will be vital. It will take time and it will cost money. It will also require the leadership of people like Troy attorney, Steve Justice, who is the facilitator for the Miami County Heroin Coalition. The coalition is also supporting the “Hope over Heroin” event.
Instead of getting tired of hearing about heroin, maybe we as a community should take DeWine’s advice and get sick of the problem. Admittedly, it’s difficult to agree how to do something about a complicated situation like heroin addiction, but why not try to support those on the frontlines who are doing their best to provide answers.
For anyone interested in the free event, “Hope over Heroin” will begin on Friday, July 8th at 7 p.m. with a main event at the Miami County Fairgrounds. Then on Saturday, July 9, starting at noon with food, music, presenters, a 5 p.m. Memorial March, and main event at 7 p.m.
For more information visit the event’s Facebook page, at “Hope over Heroin” Troy, Ohio, or email [email protected]
Christina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com