While the number of heroin-related deaths this year continues to rise — exceeding the number from 2014 — a Middletown woman is thankful she hasn’t become a statistic.
From January through September, there have been more heroin-related deaths in Butler County than all of 2014, according to the Butler County Coroner’s office.
For the first nine months, there were 136 total drug overdoses, and 107 were caused by heroin, according to the coroner’s office. For all of last year, there were 137 drug overdoses and 103 were heroin related.
This year, the number of heroin deaths is substantially higher than the same period last year, according to the coroner’s office. There were 101 drug deaths and 76 were caused by heroin during the first nine months last year, the office said.
At the current rate, there will be 143 heroin overdoses in the county this year, an increase of 39 percent over last year.
Meanwhile, Tabitha Greene hopes she is receiving the assistance at the Center of Hope for Women and Children to turn her life around.
By this time, Greene, 21, figured she would have graduated from high school, been attending college or received her cosmetology certificate, and possibly been married and living in a home.
But her route was derailed when she was introduced to heroin when she was 16, a high school student.
“It started at parties,” she said, “then it spiraled out of control.”
She completed her junior year at Carlisle High School, dropped out, and now is earning her GED. Eventually, she hopes to get custody of her three children, ages 3, 2 and 3 months. Her two oldest children are living with her mother in Carlisle and her youngest with her relative in Kentucky. She is allowed to visit the youngest once a week, she said.
The father of the children is incarcerated in Dearborn County, Ind., she said.
“We all have made mistakes,” she said.
One day, she hopes, the family of five will be reunited.
There were times, she said, after she had “lost everything and burned all my bridges,” that she and the kids lived out of a truck, then in a tent.
“My addiction was getting the best of me,” she said while sitting at the Center of Hope, where she has lived since Oct. 8. “I was panhandling. I had hit rock bottom.”
But right now, Greene is dealing with her heroin addiction. She has been clean since Aug. 24, and credits the counseling she has received at the Middletown homeless shelter. It hasn’t been easy, she said. In the days after she became clean, her body went through withdrawal and there were episodes of vomiting, diarrhea and headaches, what she called “agonizing pain.”
She doesn’t want others to experience the same feelings.
“Don’t do it,” she answered when asked about trying heroin. “It’s not worth losing everything.”
Melissa Schwarber, executive director of the homeless shelter, has seen plenty of women like Greene.
“Sad stories,” is how Schwarber described them. “Their hearts are screaming for help and they can’t get off this drug.”
She paused, she added: “Watching the children suffer is the most horrific part of it all.”
Schwarber said all the agencies were caught off guard by what has been described as a “heroin epidemic” in Middletown, but the same could be said about the country.
“None of us anticipated this,” she said. “Not to this level of addiction. We thought there would be isolated cases here and there, but we never saw this.”
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