By Scott Halasz
CEDARVILLE — Attorney General Mike DeWine held nothing back when describing the current heroin problem in Ohio.
“This opiate epidemic is unlike any drug epidemic I’ve ever seen,” he said Friday before speaking at a faith leaders conference at Cedarville University. “It goes across every demographic. From teenagers to 60- and 70-year-olds. Income doesn’t matter. Race doesn’t matter. Sex doesn’t matter. We’re losing eight to 10 people a day in Ohio.”
And DeWine all but said it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
“We have not bottomed out on this,” he said. “We’re still going down.”
It going to take a community-wide effort which is why conferences like Friday’s are helpful according to the Cedarville resident. Law enforcement and service groups can only do so much.
“Grassroots is the only way we’re going to stop this,” he said.
DeWine has facilitated several faith-based seminars similar to Cedarville’s, as it’s very likely religious leaders encounter addiction from congregants on a regular basis.
“It has to involve churches,” he said. “It will be a very lucky pastor or priest or rabbi who has (nobody) in his congregation who has been touched by heroin.”
That’s why the Drug Free Action Alliance organized Friday’s forum, which featured various speakers — including some who have overcome addiction themselves — and panel discussions with a faith-based theme.
“It takes a community-based process. (Religious organizations) are a piece,” said Marcie Seidel, DFAA executive director. “They’re the ones that can have that love, that care.”
It’s not just the users who are suffering. The effects transcend the dealers and addicts.
“You have so many things that are happening,” DeWine said. “It’s all the families that are impacted.”
The cost of foster care in Ohio is even on the rise because of the increase in orphaned children.
As the state’s top lawyer, DeWine has done his part with various legal actions against doctors who are backroom drug dealers, prescribing addictive pain medicines that often lead to heroin usage.
“(But) we can not arrest our way out of the problem,” he said.
Education and prevention is the key.
DeWine, with the help of Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) and Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville), assembled a blue ribbon team to look into that aspect. The team will make a recommendation as to how best to move forward.
“Hopefully it will get us to take some action,” DeWine said.
One idea DeWine told leaders about Friday is to start with kindergarten students and and spend time each year until graduation talking about the danger of heroin use. It’s important to start when kids are young because the problem is not going away soon.
“We have to solve it ourselves,” he said.