Community holds open discussion to address heroin epidemic

Community holds open discussion to address heroin epidemic
One heroin addict stands during the meeting and says the Lake County Sheriff's Department saved his life, after he started the addiction with painkillers as a kid.

MADISON, OH (WOIO) - The Madison Fire District treated six heroin overdoses in one week, which inspired dozens from across the community to have a meeting to discuss the heroin epidemic.

Wednesday night's meeting, which had standing room only, drew a wide range of people. Dozens of elected officials, recovering addicts, family, friends, school leaders, law enforcement officers and firefighters packed the training room at the Madison Fire District's Station 3.

Capt. Ron Walters, from the Lake County Sheriff's Department, honestly addressed the crowd, asking to hear their experiences and advice about how to deal with the epidemic.

"We gotta break the cycle because what we're doing right now with traditional methods of policing are not working," said Walters.

One man stood up and identified himself only as "Derrick." He said he was a recovering heroin addict who started on the drug the same way so many others do: a broken arm as a teen that led to a prescription for pain killers.

"If I brought you a 15-year-old kid, what would you tell them to keep them off drugs?" Walters asked him.

"There's nothing I can tell them to keep him off drugs," replied Derrick.

Another recovering addict, who identified himself only as "Dave," said he witnessed a heroin overdose.

"I walked back into the restroom and he was face down on the restroom floor," said Dave. "He had really attempted through OD to commit suicide that night."

The Madison Fire District has seen six overdoses in one week. One firefighter said the district gave about 100 doses of Narcan, the drug that reverses opioid overdoses, over the past three years.

The meeting involved discussion of the problem, along with differing ideas of the best way to handle it.

"The typical addict anymore is middle-class people. It's not what it used to be at all," said Belinda Bradbeer, founder of Clean Start.

Bradbeer recommended 12-step, faith-based programs for addicts. Others in the crowd disagreed and said there needed to be more of an integrated approach.

All agreed that more awareness and discussion of the the problem was key.

"I think if the community is able to, I hate to say take off the blinders, but take off the blinders. Then that will enable us to see what we really have here," said Dave.

The local school district was also at the meeting, saying they're looking to create a heroin curriculum to teach in classrooms.

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