By Amanda Ensinger
The office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently partnered with the United Westside Coalition to host a community conversation and open house to address the heroin epidemic crippling the Westside.
At the meeting, held Sept. 29 at Franklin Heights High School, a panel of experts discussed the ongoing issue, shared stories of recovery and took questions from the audience.
“It is important that we focus on this issue because we are losing at least eight people a day from accidental overdoses,” DeWine said. “Bringing people together to learn about this issue and share ideas on how to fight this is crucial.”
The event featured a diverse group of attendees, including law enforcement, area leaders, former addicts, families of addicts who have lost their lives and area organizations fighting against this epidemic, were among the attendees.
Heroin use has been ongoing issue throughout the westside, as well as the state and country for the past few years. Recently, in Columbus, first responders responded to 27 overdoses in 24 hours, many resulting in death. Last year, 3,050 people in Ohio lost their lives to the drug.
The recent overdoses in the city can be attributed to a particularly strong version of the drug currently on the streets.
“There used to be a very small number of people that used this drug,” DeWine said. “Even the most seasoned drug user would not use heroin because there was a physiological barrier associated with it. That has now changed.”
The attorney general said during the meeting they wanted to change the misconceptions people have about heroin and open the lines of communication.
“What people may not understand is that once you use heroin, you are completely addicted until you get sober,” DeWine said. “The other thing we wanted to communicate was that this is an issue in every community, not just select communities. We have an opiate problem everywhere; users are all ages and all backgrounds.”
DeWine said education is the best way to fight this epidemic and he supports talking about this with school-aged children.
During the event, organizers also talked about how law enforcement needs to partner with local grassroots efforts to get this drug off the streets. Treatment programs were also discussed and the importance of providing affordable, easy to access treatment.
Free Narcan kits and training also were provided by Mt. Carmel at the event. Narcan is a drug that reverses the affects of heroin and is used by emergency personal, hospitals and law enforcement.
Recently, the Franklin Township Fire Police Department started carrying the drug because of the increase in overdoses in the township.
“Every emergency responder, law enforcement agency and person who has a recovering addict in their home should have Narcan,” DeWine said. “If someone is having trouble getting Narcan, contact the attorney general’s office and we will work with you to get some.”
For more information on the Ohio Attorney General Heroin Unit, visit www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/DrugAbuse.