Recovering addict: Heroin epidemic ‘going to get worse’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
She called heroin "a tremendous issue"

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A diverse group of speakers — a former addict, health professional and police officer — gathered Saturday afternoon at the Hamilton YWCA to discuss the heroin epidemic in Butler County.

All speakers agreed heroin use will continue rising despite the efforts of public safety, the judicial system and the medical field.

“It’s going to get worse,” said Christopher Skinner, 34, a recovering opiate addict from Fairfield who has been clean for 1,000 days. “You can’t turn your head anymore.”

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He said 90 percent of those addicted to opiates will die from an overdose, and he called the other 10 percent “miracles.”

Jennifer Mason, EMT coordinator at Fort Hamilton Hospital, shows how some children can hide drugs in common household items Saturday during an event at the Hamilton YWCA. RICK MCCRABB / STAFF
Caption
Jennifer Mason, EMT coordinator at Fort Hamilton Hospital, shows how some children can hide drugs in common household items Saturday during an event at the Hamilton YWCA. RICK MCCRABB / STAFF

Skinner said he abused drugs and alcohol as a young man, then got addicted to painkillers after he was injured and his prescriptions expired. He has had four OVI charges and said that, while high on opiates, he passed out at his uncle’s house during a Christmas party. He eventually was treated for his addiction at a Dayton rehabilitation center.

He said people need to realize that addicts, despite their actions, are human beings first, and no one wants to overdose. He said people who criticize addicts have “hatred in their hearts.”

To combat the heroin problem in Butler County, Fort Hamilton Hospital, in collaboration with the Hamilton Police Department, has started an outreach program called Fort Opiates Recovery Task Force (FORT), where police and medical professionals meet at least once a week with addicts in hopes of getting them into recovery. There is a similar program in Middletown. Hamilton and Middletown have the highest number of heroin overdoses in the county, the coroner’s office has said.

Jason Mason, EMS coordinator at Fort Hamilton, said the goal of the group is to “seize a moment of clarity” with the addicts.

“We trudge at it one individual at a time,” said Mason, who added that, on average, a heroin addict will spend $55,000 a year supporting their habit.

Hamilton Police Officer Brian Wynn said if one of 100 people contacted agree to enter rehabilitation, “that’s a success.”

He urged those in the room, part of the Butler County Democratic Party, to contact lawmakers and encourage them to create stiffer penalties for drug dealers, the ones “poisoning our people.” He said there need to be consequences, otherwise “it’s a never-ending cycle.”

But he added: “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”

The opiate addiction crosses political lines, he said.

“It’s a people thing,” he said.

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