A group of local people working to raise awareness about Hamilton’s heroin epidemic held their first syringe clean-up day Saturday at a public park, looking for dangerous needles and other drug paraphernalia.
The fact they found what they were looking for was both good and sad. Sad, because it’s further proof of just how far-reaching the heroin addiction crisis here is, volunteers said.
Good, because “if we only found one,” said volunteer Jill Henry, “… we might have saved a little kid’s life,” fellow volunteer Candy Abbott said, finishing Henry’s sentence.
At Wayne Playground, at the intersection of Park Avenue and D Street, Henry and Abbott were among about 10 volunteers for the group Heroin Control, which found trash and 57 cents in the grass and under benches. They also found an orange-capped needle buried in the mulch next to where kids might come and play.
“I just want people to see we’re here,” said Tammie Norris, one of the founding organizers with Abbott of Heroin Control.
Last August, Norris and Abbott organized a heroin awareness rally in front of the Butler County Government Services Center in downtown Hamilton. They formed the group Heroin Control, which has a Facebook page, for family members of addicts to talk about their loved ones' drug problems. Some followers are grappling with overdose deaths.
Norris and Abbott, mothers of addicts, know the problem all too well. They also know heroin addiction, which now kills more Ohioans a year than car accidents, does not discriminate. It affects men, women, children, the poor, rich and middle class.
“We want our hometown back,” Abbott said.
This year through the end of March, the Butler County Coroner's office has investigated 50 deaths related to drug overdoses, 21 of which were related to heroin. In all of 2013, 39 people died in Butler County from heroin overdoses.
“I just wish the money was there” to fight the crisis, Robin Wilson said, another one of Saturday’s volunteers.
Since last year's rally, a Butler County Opiate Abuse Task Force was created. The task force, which now meets monthly, is striving for greater community awareness on the issue, more access to treatment and detox centers, and prevention education in schools.
Heroin Control organized on Saturday its first of what they hope to be many syringe clean-up days at public parks. After starting the day at Wayne Playground, the volunteers were headed to Millikin Woods Park, which they said was a known hot spot.
The group’s next step is to work with experts to get more paramedics, park employees and others trained to handle needles, drug capsules and other things found on the ground in public spaces.
Coming up, Heroin Control’s friends and family support group will meet from 6 to 8 p.m. on June 4 at Hamilton Lane Library, at 300 N. Third St. A one-year anniversary rally is scheduled for Aug. 2.