By Kristin Rover
An opiate round table meeting was held June 3 to discuss opiate abuse issues and prevention in the county.
Congressman Brad Wenstrup attended the event and listened to what members of the Clermont County Opiate Task Force had to say about opiate use in the county.
Members of the Opiate Task Force include law enforcement officials, medical professionals, probation officers, judges, and parents of addicts.
“I am thrilled to sit here today and see so many people here,” Wenstrup said. “Thank you for being here. I am glad to be a part of it.”
Karen Scherra, executive director of Clermont Count Mental Health and Recovery Board, talked about the history of opiate abuse in the county, including the rise in heroin use, which became the focus of the discussion.
“Five years ago heroin started creeping in,” Scherra said. “What startled us was the overdoses.”
Members of the task force also talked about their experience with opiate abuse.
Sue McKinley, of Felicity-Franklin Township, said heroin is tearing apart the town.
“Felicity-Franklin Township has become a hub for people to hang out,” McKinley said. “This has started to decline an entire community. It is a tremendous problem.”
Clermont County Sheriff Captain Steve Leahy said the department’s task force has been dealing with heroin dealers throughout the county.
He said one of the hottest spots is the Piccadilly neighborhood in Union Township.
“We had these issues coming to Piccadilly,” Leahy said. “They were handing it out like samples in Kroger on Sunday.”
Leahy said high school students have told him how bad the drug problems have gotten at their schools.
Clermont County Municipal Court Judge George Pattison said he believes the key for a heroin addict is beginning a program immediately after they are released from jail.
“It’s at the point when they get out and they feel better that they need an adequate program,” Pattison said.
Donna Dowdney shared her story as the mother of a heroin addict and also stressed the importance of a rehab program.
Dowdney said heroin has caused years of devastation for her son and her family.
“It has been a nightmare-ish roller coaster,” Dowdney said.
Dowdney said her son began smoking marijuana and progressed to using heroin.
She said his addiction began to control his life, and he continued to fail at his attempts to become clean.
“The craziness of this disease is unexplainable,” she said.
Dowdney said her son eventually came to her desperate for help. She decided to help him get clean.
“We tried it at home,” Dowdney said.
She said he ended up becoming horrifically sick with withdrawal symptoms and was hospitalized.
“He was in the hospital for five days,” Downdey said. “There was no plan in place.”
Dowdney said thankfully, her son was admitted into the Clermont Recovery Center and is now at a sober living home.
“Today he is clean and sober,” Dowdney said. “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”
Dowdney said she feels removing addicts from their environment and getting them into a rehab program is crucial for their recovery.
“These people cannot go out on their own and try it on their own,” Dowdney said.
Scherra talked about some of the ways members of the Opiate Task Force have worked to combat heroin overdoses, and what they think needs to be done to help addicts in the county.
Scherra said the task force is looking into drugs that can be used to help addicts get clean, rehab programs for addicts, and educational methods that can help prevent people from using the drugs.
Wenstrup agreed that opiate abuse needs to be discussed more at a national level.
“What I’m becoming aware of is the opportunity to get into rehab is what needs to be there,” Wenstrup said.
Scherra said the biggest struggle is finding the resources and the funds to be able to put their plans into action.
“We know what we need to do, but the resources aren’t there,” Scherra said.