In recent years one can hardly open a newspaper, flip on the television or pull up a news website and not read about the explosion of heroin, opiate and drug usage both nationally and here in Greene County.

The subject has been examined, considered and talked about extensively by concerned citizens, elected officials, law enforcement representatives and social services providers, all who experience firsthand the effects of such drugs on our communities. It’s an issue that affects many areas of society.

Recently the Greene County Community Drug Coalition hosted a community drug forum, where citizens could coordinate with various local social services providers, meet with other local stakeholders and hear from one of the state’s leading experts on drug addiction. The event was a great opportunity for citizens to get involved and to learn more about this epidemic in our communities. Local service providers and stakeholders put on a great event and brought together many valuable resources.

We were disappointed to see that only about 100 people showed up for the event, many of which were local government and law enforcement officials. If this is an issue our community is committed to addressing, citizens have to take advantage of all the resources available to not only learn about the problem, but also to find available resources and connect with others trying to make a difference.

This newspaper has done its part in promoting the efforts of local groups trying to provide solutions to this issue. Where is the response? Do we really care about finding help for those trapped in the cycles of addiction? Or is this a problem we’re more comfortable just not thinking about?

This was a prime opportunity for community members to learn about drug and alcohol addiction and to learn about how to get involved in finding solutions to an issue that affects all of our communities.

According to recently released data from the Ohio Department of Health, in 2014, opioids made up about 80 percent of drug overdose deaths in the state. In 2003, the state reported about 300 deaths in association with opioid overdose. In 2014, that same number was about 2,000 deaths, an approximate increase of 566 percent.

According to data from the Mental Health and Recovery Board for Clark, Greene and Madison Counties, opiate diagnosis treatment funds have increased by about $130,000 since 2009. The board has paid for opiate diagnosis treatment services for about 3,300 Greene County residents in that same time period.

According to Greene County Combined Health District data, 20 individuals have died in Greene County from heroin-induced injury in the last two years. Provisional data for 2015 shows that five Greene County residents have died in association with heroin intoxication.

Drug cases crowd the dockets of our courts, even to the point where Fairborn Municipal Judge Beth Root is in the process of launching a “drug court” specifically designed to address the issue of heroin in the area.

It’s clear that this is an issue that must be addressed. We hear regularly from local government and law enforcement officials proposing solutions and talking about the problem. It’s time for citizens to get involved with this issue.

Volunteer through one of the many social service providers seeking to help addicts or recovering individuals in our community, contribute at one of the drug coalition meetings, find a way to get involved. This is an issue our community desperately needs to address. That will only happen when you get involved.

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