Group forms human chain on bridge to spotlight heroin addiction

Between 100 and 200 people clasped hands to form a human chain across the High-Main Street Bridge Saturday afternoon to raise awareness of what they say is a growing problem with heroin addiction.

In addition to linking together, the area residents released dozens of balloons that floated south over the Great Miami River, many of them marked with the names of friends and loved ones who succumbed to addiction. One of them read, “Rest in peace to way too many gone too soon.”

The Rev. Valerie McCann of God’s Temple church in Hamilton lead the group in prayer, encouraging people to “love the addict, but hate the addiction.”

“My daughter is an active heroin addict,” said Kathy Daugherty of Hanover Twp. “I’ve had custody of her son since he was about 1 and 1/2. A lot of times when you’re in this situation, you feel like you’re the only one and there’s no one else going through the same thing. So just being here and seeing that there are other families that have loved ones that are in this situation is helpful.”

She believes heroin addiction often starts when people get addicted to painkillers after surgery. Then when they can’t get medicine, they turn to heroin, which has become less expensive and easy to get.

“In reality, I think physicians are where a lot of this starts. People start their addiction with surgery, and then they’re over-prescribed with pain medication,” Daugherty said.

Some people were passing out information for a new center called State Line Treatment Services , which treats people for addiction to heroin and pain medications. The phone number is (513) 367-4444.

“We’ve lost a sister to heroin, and we have nieces nephews that are addicted to heroin,” said Brenda Kemper of Fairfield Twp. “There’s a huge problem, and until somebody really admits it or looks into it, we’re going to continue to lose these kids right and left. This year alone, we have known somewhere between seven and eight deaths — us personally.”

And the drug addiction itself is hardly the only problem, she said.

“Not only do you have the heroin, but then you have the effect of the crime, because they’re stealing right and left to support their habit,” Kemper said.

Often, merely acknowledging the problem is a good first step, she added.

“You talk to people and they don’t want to admit it. But once you sit down and you say ‘I’ve lost family members,’ they’ll say ‘Oh I do too.’ It’s almost like it’s behind closed doors. We’re standing here today admitting that we’ve known people,”said Kemper.