Grassroots efforts must come together with other organizations across Ohio to battle the drug crisis, including law enforcement, health care professionals, churches and businesses, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said during a visit to Springfield on Wednesday morning
DeWine, a Cedarville resident, was the keynote speaker at the Clark County Jail Chaplaincy breakfast at the Clark State Community College Hollenbeck-Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center.
The opioids flooding Ohio’s streets have created the worst drug epidemic of his lifetime, DeWine said.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “It’s in every single county and every single community. It cuts across every demographic and every economic group.”
In Clark County, a record 97 people have died of drug overdoses this year and local law enforcement have responded to more than 1,000 drug overdoses, local leaders said.
About 15 people per day die of drug overdoses in Ohio, DeWine said. If the deaths were caused by terrorist attacks, he said, Ohio residents would be up in arms.
“We just don’t have the sense of urgency that we should have,” DeWine said.
The epidemic is impeding Ohio’s growth, DeWine said. A large amount of crime committed in the state is caused by people looking for money to fuel drug habits, he said.
The attorney general’s office recently created a heroin unit to assist local law enforcement agencies with apprehending larger scale drug dealers, he said.
“It’s been quite successful in a number of communities around the state,” DeWine said.
Community outreach has also been key, DeWine said, as grassroots efforts from local citizens who have lost loved ones to the epidemic have made a big difference bringing communities together.
The attorney general also has a unit that helps communities organize, DeWine said, particularly using techniques that have been effective in other areas of the state.
“I’m convinced this battle against the addiction problem we have in Ohio, while the attorney general can do things, the governor can do things, the president can do things — ultimately, it’s going to come down to individuals in every community,” he said.
Business organizations, service clubs, schools and churches need to be on board with those community efforts, DeWine said.
“It makes a huge difference,” he said.
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The Clark County Jail Chaplaincy is one of those faith-based organizations helping people become productive in society, DeWine said.
“With faith-based programs, a number of them can find their path,” DeWine said.
Last year, the Clark County Jail Chaplaincy produced about 2,300 hours of programming to show to inmates at the jail to help point them in the right direction after leaving the jail, Chaplain Tony Bailey said. In the first six months of this year, the chaplaincy saw more than 800 hours of volunteer service.
About 4,000 cookies were also delivered to inmates and gifts were also purchased for more than 130 children of inmates, Bailey said.
Bailey recently completed a video to show inmates featuring the Clark County chapter of the Families of Addicts Organization. It’s another resource inmates may be able to use when they leave jail, Bailey said.
“We’ve discovered that families need to heal, too,” he said.
Shauna Binegar spent 16 years in-and-out of jails and prisons in different areas through addiction, she said. She’s now in recovery from addiction and rose from a crew member to the general manager of a chain of fast-food restaurants, Binegar said.
“The ministry that’s shared in the jails does touch hearts and it does change lives,” she said. “It’s touched my life so much.”
Ohio needs to improve its prevention efforts to make a difference in the next 15 to 20 years, he said. The drug education must begin in kindergarten with age-appropriate activities and continue lessons each year through senior year of high school, DeWine said.
“We really need to start doing it and we need to do it in every school in the state of Ohio,” he said.
The state is more energized than its ever been about recovery and law enforcement efforts to help people, he said.
“They’re literally saving lives every day,” DeWine said. “A lot of good people are doing amazing work. If they weren’t doing that, the death rate would be much, much higher than it is.”
SPRINGFIELD’S OPIOID WAR
By the numbers
97: Unconfirmed, suspected drug deaths so far this year, a record number*
82: Confirmed drug deaths in 2017
79: Confirmed drug deaths in 2016
Source: Clark County Coroner’s Office
* Total as of Oct. 10
ABOUT THIS SERIES
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about opioid and heroin problems in Clark County in the past five years, including stories about multiple overdoses in one weekend and efforts to expand treatment options. This year, the News-Sun will take a deep dive into the community’s drug epidemic and what local leaders are doing to solve the problem.