Heroin Addiction: A Community Concern

By Chris Watson

What can a community actually do?

“Acceptance is the priority,” Karen, a parent said. “This is not an inner-city problem or an urban problem or a poor or rich problem. There are no barriers here. Heroin is available to anyone and it is used by people across our community spectrum. Denial of the pervasiveness of the problem gives addicts and their dealers a bigger ability to operate.”

“Second, it is paramount that we stop blaming entire families for one member’s addiction. I have heard so often that ‘Kids live what they learn.’ There were no drugs in my family. My daughter didn’t learn to use drugs in our home. We are in desperate need of affordable controlled treatment centers and sober living houses. For people who genuinely want to recover we do not have enough beds. Finally, we can assist law enforcement. If we see someone using, call it in. If we see someone selling, call it in.”

Keith Walker, President of Walker Funeral Homes, has witnessed many heroin tragedies. “It is so sad to see lives lost to heroin. Families are crippled by grief, anger, and guilt over the entire situation.” Walker, along with other area business, launched the “Heroin Steals the Future – There is Help” campaign in January, 2016.

“We need to further the conversation. For so long people considered heroin a ‘hard core’ drug. It is important that we acknowledge how available and imbedded the drug is.”

Jennifer Moses, Chief Executive Officer of the Zepf Center, a behavioral healthcare resource  explains, “We’re not naive. We don’t believe that an advertising campaign is going to turn this thing around, but we hope that every visual, top-of-mind message to the community that there is help for addiction will resonate with an addict or that addict’s family.”

The Zepf Center and sober living environments like Harbor House, The Open Door, Adam’s House, and Whitney Manor provide transitional living for addicts. However, [bed capacity is limited and woefully short of meeting the need.]

Addicts are siblings, friends, parents, teachers, students, children, coworkers and bosses. Dale, an arcovering addict [see his story on page 8] gives us hope. “I thought I was a bad person. With treatment and a program of recovery I realized that I was a sick person and I wanted to get healthy. I have been clean for over 3 years. I have a job, a car, ties to my family, and friends. I finally, after 28 years of using, I am living the life I always sought and could never seem to find. I am very, very grateful.”

Karen’s Story: A Co-Survivor

“My daughter is an active heroin addict for the last decade. She has been in 15 different treatment programs, 13 overdoses that I know of, jailed in five states, and she prostitutes herself for money. She’s 24.”

Karen’s story is about the life-stealing effects of heroin as it is relates to her addicted daughter. “I felt truly alone in the world. My upbringing told me that if my daughter wasn’t doing well there had to be something I could do; that I was a bad parent and a failure if she didn’t get clean. We tried everything. Counselors, doctors, nutritionists… anything to ‘fix’ the problem. Nothing worked. We tried an intervention, which was terribly painful for the whole family, but it wasn’t successful. My son and my husband carried her bags to the curb and we locked the doors.”

Karen found support from families facing similar situations. “It seemed there was nothing left that I could do for my daughter. But there was a lot I could do about me; programs that help those of us with family members who are addicts, whether those addicts have found recovery or not. In many respects, those of us with loved ones who use can become as sick as the addict. Family members are riddled with isolation, justification, resentment, guilt, and above all, fear.

By grouping together with others who understand, I started to put my life back together. I recognize that my daughter’s actions are what put her where she is today, not some parenting I did or didn’t do in the past. I still grieve, I still ache, and I still hope, with the love and support of my family and community.”


Dale’s Story: A Survivor

Dale, a veteran of the US Army, honorably discharged in 1983 with chronic low back pain started with painkillers before switching to heroin. “The minute I tried heroin I knew it was for me.” he said. “I started using in 1985. Within 60 days I was using daily. I was lonely, I knew there was something lacking in me. I just kept moving from situation to situation. Nothing worked. And the using just progressed. I started losing jobs, the respect of my family, and self respect. To get me the money I needed quickly enough, stealing was the fastest way.”

But there were consequences. “I have 13 different penitentiary numbers (each on for a separate time he has been sentenced to prison), all of them theft related. I have been treated for 7 times for overdoses…that I know of. Memories get a little flakey.”  Dale, who started drinking and smoking marijuana at 14, used for 28 years. “I wanted to stop. I kept telling myself, ‘no more.’ No more penitentiary, no more stealing, no more using,  but everyone I knew was a user. I actually got clean once for 4 months. I got a job, my family talked to me, I had money. Then, one night, I ran into a person who had some drugs and that was it. I used for another 13 years.”


Community agencies  that can help with heroin related issues

The Zepf Center 419-841-7701 | zepfcenter.org offering detox, short term residential and outpatient services.

Lucas County Sheriff‘s Office D.A.R.T. 419-213-4924 responds to area hospitals for primary communication with overdose victims and transports victims to a Central location for assessment and disposition.

A Place for Mary 419-475-4449 | aplaceformaryhbh.org Thanks to a generous donation to Harbor, A Place For Mary has opened its virtual doors to offer information to families of addicts with helpful articles, videos and resource outlets. The website, is free and managed by Harbor Behavioral Health. For more information, call 419-475-4449 or visit aplaceformaryhbh.org, harbor.org

A Renewed Mind 419-720-9247 | arenewedmindservice.org provides quality behavioral healthcare when and where you need it.  Serving children, adolescents, adults and families, A Renewed Mind provides services in three outpatient locations, an adolescent residential location and in the community wherever it is needed.

Arrowhead Behavioral 419-891-9333 | arrowheadbehavioral.com is a private, free-standing treatment facility located in Maumee, OH.  A provider for behavioral health and substance abuse services in Northwest Ohio and Southeastern Michigan.

Team Recovery 419-561-LIFE | theteamrecovery.org A message of hope for 100% drug and alcohol free recovery for people with drug and alcohol addiction; to promote education, prevention and awareness for students regarding drugs, alcohol and general poor decision making and to help family members and friends that are affected by drugs or alcohol with support in their recovery from grief or death.

Good Grief of Northwest Ohio 419-360-4939 | goodgriefNWO.org Good Grief of Northwest Ohio offers a safe, healing place to gather grieve, receive and share support.

Mental Health & Recovery Board of Lucas County lcmhrsb.oh.gov

Toledo Lucas County Health Department 419-213-4026 | lucascountyhealth.com Toledo-Lucas County Health Department in partnership with the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board

Sylvania Community Action Team 419-824-8588 | sylvaniascat.org Sylvania Community Action Team (SCAT) is a Youth, Parent & Community group brought together to encourage healthy lifestyles for kids, and to discourage drug and alcohol use.

The Chamber Partnership thechamberpartnership.com The Chamber Partnership™ is the strategic alliance of the Anthony Wayne Regional™, Holland-Springfield™, the Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chambers of Commerce™, the DRIVE Group, and the Northwest Business Council.

Walker Funeral Homes 419-841-2422 | walkerfuneralhomes.com

Dentists - Matt Lark, Larry Schmakel and Jim Zimmerman - Members of  the Toledo Dental Society - Opioid Awareness Task Force
Dentists – Matt Lark, Larry Schmakel and Jim Zimmerman – Members of
the Toledo Dental Society – Opioid Awareness Task Force

Toledo Dental Society presents Dose Group Addresses Opioid Issues

In a study published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association produced results that 42% of patients who has a tooth extracted were given a prescription for an opioid; most commonly prescribed hydrocodone. The data suggests that a disproportionately large amount were prescribed when a nonopioid analgesics would be more effective.

The Toledo Dental Society is aware of the media attention focused on the national opioid addiction problem and agrees that in Ohio there is an epidemic that needs to be addressed with “Responsible Prescribing” for patients.

The TDS Opioid Awareness Task Force, chaired by Dr. Matt Lark and others serving on the task force: Dr. Bill Garber, Dr. Mike Judy, Dr. Keith Norwalk, Dr. Steve Shall, Dr. Larry Schmaekel, Dr. Jim Zimmerman, Dr. Matt Dietrich and Dr. Bill Zouhary are putting together dental opioid symposium and education DOSE on Thursday, October 13th at Inverness Country Club.

The symposium will increase awareness among its members about the escalating problem and to provide up to date recommendations for the responsible and ethical use of pain medications including opioids. It will also inform leaders in the community and the public of the efforts being taken in order to encourage other professionals to follow the example.

The event will be emceed by WSPD’s Fred LeFebvre and will include a panel of experts including Sheriff John Tharp, Dr. Bob Fourney, Keith Walker and Mike DeWine, Ohio Attorney General.

The task force will also be encouraging the ODA and the ADA to take a similar role at the state and national level. While the task force agrees that neither the dentists nor the dental profession cause the opioid addiction there is much that they can do as a group to help with the problem and it is incumbent as their commitment to humanity to do so.


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