Butler County pastor: ‘We can’t afford to have another bloody summer’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Pastor Shaquila Mathews has joined other Butler County pastors to denounce the recent surge in violence and drugs around the area.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Area pastors are coming together to address violence in local communities and the ongoing drug problem that is plaguing Butler County.

Drug overdoses were the leading cause of deaths in 2016 in Butler County, according to the coroner’s office.

MORE: Middletown pastors to address heroin epidemic from pulpit

That marks the third year in a row that drug overdoses claimed the top spot, according to a Journal-News analysis of statistics from the Butler County Coroner.

Of the 192 drug overdose deaths in 2016, 153 of them — or 80 percent — were fentanyl/heroin related, and the areas of Hamilton and Middletown contribute the highest to those numbers, according to the coroner’s office.

Recent shootings in Hamilton and Middletown have sparked a response from the pulpit in Butler County.

Former city councilman and local pastor Archie Johnson said he is encouraged to see that his congregation and members of the community are willing to take a stand to combat the troubling issues. He added that getting the churches more involved is a good idea.

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“I think in the midst of everything there is always hope and a lesson to be learned,” Johnson said. “I think we must always remember that God has the last say no matter what. Prayer changes things.”

Pastor Shaquila Mathews has been taking the anti-violence message from the pulpit to billboards in the city, which are seeking information to one crime she desperately wants solved.

RELATED: Pastor hopes billboard messages help catch brother’s killer

Hamilton police are still investigating the death of Mathews’ brother, 37-year-old Calvin “CJ” Simmons Jr., who was shot and killed in his home last September.

“In the past year or so, Hamilton has certainly had its share of violence, a lot of loss due to gun violence,” Mathews said. “I believe if faith-based organizations come-together and continue working with our police department and other organizations, we can put together some things that will be able to help our community.”

MORE: Multiple Hamilton churches unite in mission of prayer

She added, “I don’t want to see another summer like 2016. We can’t afford to have another bloody summer … no more bloodshed, no more violence. Like the message that I posted on my brother’s billboards, ‘Peace over Hamilton. Stop the violence. If you know something, say something.’”

Senior Pastor Dave Wess of the New Life Community Church in Middletown said that it is time “for all of us to find God’s love again.”

“We are praying for the families that are all victims of this violence,” Wess said. “These are times that we need each other. We need to heal and look to God for strength and the courage to stop the violence.”

James E. Wynn III is the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, which sits in the area of a recent shooting in Hamilton. shooting is believed to have occurred. He said there is a need for a more “structured response” to violence in the city.

“Some of the local pastors met last week about how we can come with a structured plan to address this senseless violence in the city,” Wynn said.

Wynn said older and younger members of the congregations around the city are wanting to step up, and they understand that daunting challenge of getting people to stop the violence.

“We are dealing with a lost generation. You have to get in their minds and figure out what their state of mind is. Is the problem jobs, or lack of role models or a father? We are trying to come up with a way to address these issues,” Wynn said.

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