Not long ago, Todd Crandell counseled a fifth-grade girl whose mother committed suicide.
“This poor girl was talking about watching her mom literally overdosing different times; when to call for help, when she thought her mom would make it and she didn't need to make that call,” Mr. Crandell said, noting the girl’s mother later committed suicide.
The red flags were instantly apparent. She deserved urgent support to prevent future problems, he said.
Mr. Crandell, founder of Racing for Recovery, joined a panel of officials Tuesday in a discussion with The Blade’s editorial board. They advocated for greater treatment and education of addiction.
John Edwards, executive director of Lucas County’s Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program; Denise Poage, a recovering heroin addict; and Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp also spoke.
Ms. Poage contrasted addiction now with the 1970s, when she used heroin. Drug traffickers in the age of social media and cellphones keep in constant contact with users.
“I know young ladies that have changed their cellphone numbers 20 times because they're after them. They don’t want to let them go,” she said.
Sheriff Tharp has served in law enforcement for 45 years. Deputies respond now to the grandchildren of those with drug problems decades ago, he said.
The office's Drug Abuse Response Team encourages users toward treatment and recovery. Its members continue working with addicts even if relapse occur, he said.
DART has responded to more than 2,400 overdoses in nearly three years. The prevalence of drug abuse is not improving, but would be so much worse without widespread efforts, Sheriff Tharp said.
“We must protect the weak. And who are the weakest people at this time? It's those people that are addicted and can’t control their actions,” Sheriff Tharp said.
The Ohio Department of Health reported more than 4,000 Ohioans died last year from accidental opioid overdoses, an increase of 36 percent over 2015.
The Lucas County jail holds a wing of inmates with drug addiction who meet on-site with counselors. These 48 inmates leave with contacts to better stay clean, Sheriff Tharp said.
Drug addiction now further touches suburban and rural America, tearing apart families, Mr. Edwards said. More could be done for those returning from prison as well, he said.
“Those individuals are ripe for destruction, the moment they come home. Oftentimes, they’re coming home to a welcome home party that's all about drugs, alcohol, how to get set up as a dealer, and the like,” he said.
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