Posted: 5:00 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016

Speakers note hope among grim Clark County drug stats

Heroin, other abuse happens in neighborhoods across state, DeWine says.


Speakers note hope among grim Clark County drug stats photo
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine was one of the speakers at the fifth annual Clark County drug symposium at Tecumseh High School on Wednesday. Behind him is a poster for Cole’s Warriors, formed after the 2011 overdose death of Tecumseh student Cole Smoot. Brett Turner/Contributed photo

By Brett Turner

Contributing Writer

Despite daily stories of the damage the heroin epidemic and other drug abuse has inflicted on communities, a key word stood out at the fifth annual Clark County drug symposium – hope.

A range of speakers — including Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly and Dr. Brad Lander, the clinical director of addiction psychiatry at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center — told the crowd gathered at Tecumseh High School’s auditorium about the hard facts but also what can be done to curb the drug problem.

The event was hosted Wednesday night by Family and Youth Initiatives.

“If there’s any message, it’s not an epidemic in somebody else’s back yard,” said DeWine. “You’ve got a great program here tonight. We can talk about stats, who has died. But there is hope. People are being saved every day. But it won’t go away overnight.”

A new educational video from the Attorney General’s office was introduced about the late Tecumseh High School student Cole Smoot, who died of an accidental overdose in 2011.

DeWine said the takeaway from the video is it could be your child, your grandchild or a neighbor’s child, and they are just like the rest of us and it’s happening in our neighborhoods.

One of the misconceptions is people in their 20s and 30s are the primary group using, but the Attorney General’s office has seen users from their early teens up through people in their 60s.

While heroin is the main drug of users, DeWine talked about the recent increase of carfentanil, which is used as an elephant tranquilizer. Kelly said he’s seen meth and speed also making comebacks.

“These dealers will sell anything to make money,” DeWine said.

He suggested getting in front of the problem with programs for kindergarten through 12th grade students and grassroots meetings such as the symposium and more education and prevention.

Kelly talked about a three-pronged approach based on enforcement, education and treatment. He shared successes such as a drug take-back program that netted 315,000 pills in four hours, school education programs, a new Clark County task force and a deputy who saved two overdose victims on consecutive nights.

“We have to have hope, more people to tell their stories, how and where to get help and knowing there are people to stand with them,” Kelly said.

Lander was speaking at his second symposium here. He said the urgency is higher this time and that “opium addiction has got us by the throat.”

“This time last year it wasn’t as bad. What I want to get across is none of this is a mystery … Having an idea of what it is about helps.”

But Lander also said he sees miracles of people who have turned their lives around and those victories are worth keeping the fight going.

Other speakers included Dwan Hodges, a recovering addict, and Amy Cost of the Miami County Recovery Council on what communities can do to help.

Several community members turned out, including New Carlisle residents Sean and Sarah Conley. They moved here from Tipp City last winter and wanted to be better informed.

“We should know what’s going on in our area,” said Sarah Conley.

Tecumseh sophomores Charlene Rine and Ingris Gramajo are members of Tecumseh’s Drug Education for Youth (DEFY) program and were in the auditorium’s front row with sixth-grader Isa Grario Gramajo. They speak to middle school students as part of the program and wanted to know more so they can be best prepared.


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