Community leaders hope they took another step toward ending, or at least reducing, the heroin epidemic in the Middletown area.
About 40 people representing a cross section of the community gathered for six hours Monday at Atrium Medical Center, sharing ideas on how to loosen heroin’s grip that killed 49 people in the city last year, and strained city and public safety budgets. City Manager Doug Adkins said Middletown spent $1.5 million last year dealing with the affects of heroin, and it’s time to be proactive.
“We are in this for the long haul,” Adkins told the group at the conclusion of the Heroin Summit, a work session for community stakeholders to set goals and begin developing a community-wide response to dealing with the heroin issue. “This will not be quick. It won’t be three meetings and, ‘Thank God, we solved heroin.’”
He said if the city can reduce deaths related to heroin by 50 percent that would be “a pretty remarkable accomplishment.”
Adkins said in 2014 the city spent $1.3 million for the police department, including patrols, special operations by the narcotics unit and jail corrections; $167,000 by the fire department; and more than over $18,000 for indigent burials of drug overdose deaths.
From 2000 to 2012, there was a 366-percent increase in drug overdose deaths in Ohio, according to state records.
Jackie Phillips, city health director, said heroin addiction is an epidemic that’s impacted the entire U.S. She said heroin hits harder in communities that face poverty, offer easy access and are located near major cities.
“We have more of those factors,” she said.
Adkins said a follow-up meeting is set for Feb. 23 at the hospital and he hopes to continue the momentum that started Monday at the summit, which drew members of the medical community, church and city leaders, business leaders, police and fire officials and elected officials.
They talked about the importance of prevention, treatment and education. They said the city needs to educate its youth about the dangers associated with heroin, install a centralized phone service to direct those with questions regarding heroin, and open a one-stop center so addicts can receive in- and out-patient treatments.
“We build jails for these people,” said Mike Gmoser, Butler County prosecutor. “We need to build facilities for these people.”
Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims said his jail, which is sometimes referred to as a “detox center,” has had success giving inmates shots of Vivitrol, which eliminates the high associated with heroin. He said the inmates receive up to six shots, and the cost a one-month prescription is about $1,200
“You can only help those who want to be helped,” Phillips said.
Ron Ward is one of those who wanted helped, he said. Ward, 46, who has been clean from methamphetamine for two years and six months, said he started Celebrate Restoration out of his Middletown home. The goal: Get addicts off the streets and return them to productive lives. He said since last year, he has assisted five addicts, three from Middletown.
“I just love the city, and I want to see us get better,” he said.
Marquita Turner, chief nursing officer at Atrium, and Lamar Ferrell, pastor of Berachah Church in Middletown, said prayer is needed, and God is the most powerful remedy.
“We have to call on this higher being, the healer to fix this problem,” said Turner, who added the “just say no” anti-drug message needs to be more consistent.
It’s important, she said, to get into the homes of addictive parents and make sure their children don’t make the same decisions.
Ferrell said since heroin addiction is considered a disease and those impacted need healing, there is something people can do that is free. He’d like for the community to meet once a week, at the same time, the same place, and pray for those shackled by heroin.
“We will ask God to do the impossible,” Ferrell told the group. “We are dealing with impossible situations, but we are not dealing with a God who is stumped. He’s saying, ‘Trust me.’”
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