More than 150 people attended a forum on heroin and opioid addiction Tuesday in Fairfield, with many sharing how their lives have been impacted by the epidemic.
“I stole tens of thousands of dollars from my father’s bank account when I was addicted, but he never pressed charges,” Matt Himm told those who gathered at the event. “I would find a street that I thought was safe and sleep in my car.”
Himm, who said he is four years sober, said people need to realize that addiction is a disease and that working together with the many agencies and resources available in Butler County can produce positive results.
“Addicts need help more than you can imagine,” Himm said. “There are a lot of things going on in the community that are helping. We need to have more awareness of these services so we can utilize them.”
Getting help and prevention are keys to fighting the opioid epidemic, said Dr. Quinton Moss, who has opened an outpatient and inpatient medical drug-detox center in Hamilton.
“We have to look at this struggle that our community has with heroin and pain pills as a struggle with illness and disease,” Moss said. “Prevention is key in dealing with this epidemic. I think first understanding what risks we all have when we try to manage pain in unhealthy ways and understanding risks when even getting prescribed medications. Ohio is trying to be more responsive and responsible in how we address those needs for patients.”
Resident Lisa Bowlin said she worries the epidemic will get worse unless people realize the severity of addiction and come together to provide help for families.
“I am a mother of a continuing addict and she is not in recovery,” Bowlin said. “Not only is my daughter hurting herself but there is children involved.”
Bowlin said her daughter is eight weeks pregnant “and this is baby number four that will be affected.”
“It has divided our family trying to figure out what to do with her and the children,” she said.
Fairfield Councilman Bill Woeste, who formed the Fairfield Opioid Task Force last summer, thanked those who attended for showing a commitment to being a part of the solution to the problem.
“The most important people here tonight are all of you,” Woeste said. “All of you are going to take what you learn and hear tonight back to your families, work, churches and in the community to spread the word about fighting this drug problem and we are in this together.”
The number of heroin/fentanyl deaths in 2016 in Fairfield was 12, behind Middletown (52) and Hamilton (47), according to the Butler County Coroner’s Office.
Of the fire department’s 3,240 calls during a seven-month period, 126 were opioid related, according to Lt. Jamie Viers of the Fairfield Fire Department.
Narcan was administered in 87 of the opioid-related calls, he said.
Most patients receive two or three doses of Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose, according to Viers, who added that the city will spend about $6,500 on Narcan this year.