Pubdate: Sat, 24 Jan 2015
Source: Chillicothe Gazette (OH)
Copyright: 2015 Chillicothe Gazette


What if 29 people died at a specific intersection or on a particular 
stretch of road in the span of one year in Ross County?

What if 29 different people contracted the same, eventually fatal, 
illness in one neighborhood and a year later were dead? Even if that 
happened in a five-or 10-year period, that would be eye-opening.

If either of those things occurred in Ross County -- or in any 
community across the country -- there would be significant outcry and 
calls for action to help find the cause and help keep people safe.

But last year in Ross County, 29 people died in Ross County from drug 
overdoses -- including 19 from heroin overdoses, an increase of 
nearly five times the 2013 number. Those lives lost brings the 
five-year total of deaths from drugs in our community to a staggering 109.

If that doesn't scare you into helping our friends and neighbors, it 
should. Many, however, will see those numbers and respond with shrugs 
and indifference.

We understand the indifference. Drug addiction is a complex disease 
- -- one that takes more than mere willpower to break. Drugs change the 
mind and create a compulsive need for more drugs. Even for those who 
want to quit, the pull of the high can be too strong, making quitting 
extremely hard. The cycle of quitting and relapsing is frustratingly common.

We can't afford to be indifferent anymore. We can't sit back idly and 
avoid the conversation. We can't afford to think that these deaths 
are happening to other people.

We must view this as a true public health concern, not limited to the 
addicts and those around them. It's not solely a law enforcement issue anymore.

Our leaders are at work to find solutions. Last week's meetings in 
Ross County were designed to present a strong case for making Ross 
County a pilot community for the Heroin Partnership Program. We urge 
our state's leaders to consider not only the need here, but the 
willingness of the community to lead the way in battling heroin and 
its deadly consequences, in making their decision on which of four 
communities gets the program funding.

At its base, though, must be a desire by the community to get 
involved, whether that means reporting suspected drug dealers to law 
enforcement; helping to get an addict you know into treatment; or 
pushing elected officials for accountability on reducing the number 
of overdose deaths. We also need to support the families of addicts, 
many of them who suffer from the abuse and take on extra 
responsibility in the absence of the addict.

Drug-related deaths are no longer a problem strictly confined to and 
faced by the addicts and their families. As their fellow citizens, as 
their neighbors and as their friends, it is our problem, too.
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