LIMA — Heroin and opiate addiction today seems worse than the well-known drug usage in the 1980s, some community officials said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
Various Lima community officials attended a symposium in Columbus about heroin addiction, an ever-growing concern in Ohio.
The symposium, held Monday, was convened by the Ohio Supreme Court. Judge Jeffrey Reed of Allen County Common Pleas Court was asked to compile a team of people who could help address the problem in their community. Reed took about 10 people with him, including Mayor David Berger, Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin and Allen County Drug Coordinator Ed Monfort.
The symposium focused on heroin addiction, but addressed all opiate addiction. Reed said the information was such that the entire community needed to hear it.
“We are bombarded with a heroin epidemic in the state of Ohio and in Allen County,” Reed said. There is no particular economic group or racial group, according to Reed, the epidemic affects everyone.
Lima has had a drug court for the past 12 years, which handles drug abuse criminal cases with intense supervision for abusers, Reed said.
Monfort said that since 2001, 405 people have come into the drug court. Drug court, according to Monfort, takes people whose crimes are drug-driven. They are trying to keep those people out of prison because, Monfort said, they would come out worse than when they went in.
There have been 194 graduates of the program. Of those, 38 have reoffended and 14 have reoffended with felony convictions, according to Monfort.
The goal is to keep people alive. To try to do that, they work to keep users from going back to the same environment they were in and to keep them accountable so that they will make changes in their life, Monfort said. They do have medical clinics so that users will not have cravings for their addiction.
“I’ve never seen anything like this problem,” Reed said.
Medical malpractice drives much of the opiate addiction, Berger said he learned at the symposium. Patients become hooked on painkillers that they take for legitimate reasons but then when their prescription runs out they find heroin as an alternative.
Martin said there are three parts to decreasing addiction. The first is prevention and education. The second is enforcement and the third is treatment.
“I will not make any apologies for the enforcement efforts that the Lima Police Department takes. We are doing the right thing by being out there and enforcing the laws,” Martin said.
The symposium introduced a 30-40-30 concept to Martin. The concept says that about 30 percent of people addicted to opiates think they can handle the problem, about 40 percent admit a problem but don’t see a need to do anything about it, and the other 30 percent say they have a problem and they need help.
Martin said law enforcement can be the jolt a person needs to move from the 40 percent into admitting they need help.
Reed said this will take community action.
“No one entity can do this alone,” Reed said.
Eighty-three counties of Ohio’s 88 counties were represented at the symposium. Reed said what he got out of the symposium is that it is time now for the community to figure out how to work on this problem.
“We can’t have our heads in the sand anymore,” Reed said. “People are dying.”
The entire symposium was videotaped, Berger said, and three segments will be shown on GTV as soon as possible.