A former Middletown mother talked about what it was like to lose her 38-year-old son to heroin and then challenged the city to reverse heroin addiction, the latest drug epidemic to strangle Middletown and surrounding communities, according to law enforcement officials.
“I have to be a mouthpiece for other families,” said Yvonne Ewers Harris, whose son, Donnie Harris, died March 21 in Middletown. “I don’t want another mother….to have to go through what I went through. This is deadly. We have to educate. We have to stop this.”
On Tuesday night, a seven-member panel comprised of representative from law enforcement, medical services, courts, health officials, children services and churches led a heroin summit at Miami University Middletown. More than 125 people attended the event that was sponsored by the Coalition for a Healthy Middletown.
Panel members said heroin, which arrived in the city three years ago, is impacting every aspect of life in the city.
Sgt. David Birk of the Middletown Division of Police told the overflow crowd that there were 512 felony arrests in the city in 2011, and 569 last year. The Special Operations Unit issued 34 search warrants in 2011 and 569 last year. He said most of those were for heroin.
He said those addicted to heroin will “do anything” to obtain the drug. He said the number of thefts in the city dropped last year, but that was due to retail stores adding security and improving their surveillance cameras.
Still, he said, drug dealers are providing “shopping lists” to those who are addicted to heroin.
“They have them do their shopping for them,” he said of the thieves addicted to heroin.
He encouraged those in the audience to call the department’s hotline - (513) 425-7749 - if they see any suspicious drug activity. On Tuesday, he said, he listened to 10 drug complaints off the hotline.
He said the use of heroin “is like nothing we have ever seen.”
Judge Mark Wall from the Middletown Municipal Court said more people died on Monday from heroin overdoses than the three people who were killed in the bombings during the Boston Marathon. He said drug dealers “are killing our kids. Killing them.”
He paused for a few seconds, then added: “It’s an epidemic.”
He estimated that half of the crimes committed in the city are drug related.
“Our enemies are laughing at us,” he said.
Heroin addiction also is ripping apart families throughout the county, said Theresa Cooper, a supervisor with Butler County Children Services. In 2010, she said, 25 percent of the children were removed from the home because of heroin abuse. Last year, that percentage rose to 52, she said.
The Rev. Michael Bailey, pastor of Faith United Church and police and fire chaplain, said it’s difficult notifying a family member that they have lost someone to heroin. He said a 33-year-old Middletown mother, with two teen-age children, recently overdosed on heroin, and he learned her mother overdosed 14 years ago.
“I say we have a problem,” Bailey said.
When asked about curtailing heroin use, Bailey said: “Yes it can be done and it must be done.”
By Rick McCrabb - Middletown Journal, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 the Middletown Journal (Middletown, Ohio)
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