Miami Co. Heroin Coalition launched to help fight addiction

ajc.com

Drug overdoses are on the rise in the county.

A new coalition in Miami County is taking steps to raise awareness of heroin addiction and share information on what’s available to users and those trying to help them combat what’s being described as a “plague” on the community.

In the week leading to the introduction of the Miami County Heroin Coalition’s public-private efforts on Wednesday, two people, ages 27 and 31, died in the county from suspected heroin overdoses, said Steve Justice, a Troy lawyer and coalition facilitator. About 50 people each month are overdosing in the county, Justice said. And the trend is rising.

“To have a plague of this magnitude facing us is unprecedented,” he said.

The coalition includes representatives of the courts, law enforcement, health care, mental health and churches working on several committees: medical support, education/prevention, safe harbor and faith-based.

“We are not seeing a large trafficking problem in Miami County as far as drugs; we have a huge abuse problem,” said Maj. Steve Lord of the county Sheriff’s Office.

Coalition efforts include a two-page resource brochure for Miami, Shelby and Darke counties being handed out by first responders, sheriff’s deputies’ training on administering the heroin overdose revival drug Narcan and medical education on prescribing the withdrawal drug Suboxone.

The group has planned a community Hope Over Heroin faith-based festival to provide information to addicts and their families on July 8 and 9 at the Miami County Fairgrounds.

The coalition is also exploring establishing a quick response team of first responders to follow up with heroin addicts within 72 hours of an overdose.

“This is an illness. We need to figure out how to hold people accountable, and also to help people,” said Thom Grim of the Miami County Recovery Council.

The overall goal, Justice said, “is to address this in a holistic way … with dignity and respect for all involved.”

Quentin Carter, of Piqua, is supportive of the coalition efforts and said he has been clean for more than four months. He said his drug use began at the age of 9.

“I give everything to God and live a new, better life, working and doing what I need to do,” Carter, 32, said.

Among statistics Justice cited during at the coalition’s introduction was the increase in visits to the local emergency department involving drugs and alcohol. The visits jumped from around 200 in 2010 to about 800 in 2015, Justice said.

At this time, the only drug detox facility in the county is the county jail, Justice said.

The Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services serving Miami, Shelby and Darke counties is also working with the coalition. It is working with the sheriff’s office on its jail detox program while taking steps to provide local treatment beds, said Mark McDaniel, the board’s executive director.

“This issue has come upon us so aggressively,” McDaniel said of response efforts. More facilities are needed, he said, “to meet people where they are at” in the addiction/recovery process. Fundraising is under way for a one-stop type service facility that would be located between Troy and Piqua.

Troy Fire Chief Matt Simmons said emergency crews suffer from psychological effects every day from responding to overdoses. The department has had a 275 percent increase in overdose responses (using Narcan) since 2013, he said.

Lord said law enforcement would still enforce the laws but if someone wants to surrender themselves for counseling/intervention there can be a safe haven. “Those people that aren’t seeking help, that want to go out and continue to commit crimes and victimize others, then law enforcement, we are going to aggressively pursue those matters,” he said.

WHIO-TV reporter Steve Baker contributed to this report.

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