Current Events

Solving Heroin Problem Requires New Approach, Local Resources

24809370421_807e410de0_zNote: This is part of a year-long series where I look at the events, issues, problems and successes in my corner of America and see how they compare with the country as a whole.

Billboards about Vivitrol, heroin and drug counselling dot the landscape throughout my region of the country. This invasion of unhealthy drug use has impacted many families in Preble County and beyond. The stories of tragedy feel endless — from permanently disabled overdose survivors to teenagers who don’t survive.

In the Sunday, Feb. 21 Dayton Daily News B-section centerpiece story, the reporter tells of a 36-year-old heroin overdose survivor who can no longer walk or eat on his own. As the mother, and others, tell their stories of personal struggles, the mom’s words reveal just how much heroin altered her life.

She says,

My day starts at 6 a.m. I dry him, tube feed him and turn him every two hours…. He understands everything you say. He gives me a thumbs up. That’s how he communicates with me.

These tragic stories, and the sheer number of victims and addicts, has many local officials fighting back — trying to reverse the trend. A Kettering judge, tired of the traditional, ineffective legal approach to dealing with heroin addiction, noted,

We’re not solving the problem by sticking them (heroin addicts) in jail for six months. We’re solving the problem by educating them on ways to get their lives back together, Kettering Municipal Court Judge Jim Long said, the paper reported.

This educational approach is also being used by various agencies in the rural county of 40,000 where I live.

Heroin Arrests Double In My County

Recently my hometown paper, The Register-Herald, ran an article about a drug awareness program conducted at a local high school. The program highlighted how deeply heroin is embedded in my community.

The paper reported,

According to members of the Preble County Sheriff’s Office, heroin, along with methamphetamines and abuse of prescription pills remains common in Preble County. Heroin arrests have more than doubled in Preble County since 2012, having overtaken meth, meth labs and prescription pill arrests, according to official reports.

Plenty of disturbing facts exist in that one quote — including meth and prescription drug abuse apparently being a normal, everyday problem for the community — but as the article further states officials are beginning to see some payoff for their work.

…(a) former user told (Preble County Sheriff Mike) Simpson the amount of drugs she sees and is exposed to in Preble County since returning from her time in rehab is well below the amount she was experiencing while using the drug some 8 months ago.

No Man Is An Island

Because of Preble’s close proximity to Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, Preble County and southwest Ohio is one of the hardest hit areas in the state and the epidemic has spilled across the border into Indiana affecting the very young. In the past year, 54 babies were born addicted to heroin in Wayne County (Ind.), one official noted.

With children being born with a heroin addiction — is it actually possible that a long-term solution is being hampered by governmental policies and inaction?

United Methodist Church Pastor Scott Bell says local resources are a key to recovery because once a person is hooked on the drug, breaking the grip requires a vigorous commitment.

They need to be in counseling for at least a year,” Bell said. “They need to settle into a more constructive life. They can be weaned onto the pill form of the drug, but the psychological addiction never goes away. It’s difficult because the treatment centers are all gone. The government stopped funding them.

Solution Requires Local Facilities

Without adequate funding, treatment centers don’t exist and long-term solutions do not happen.

In impoverished regions of the country, like Preble County (pdf), the burden of care and recovery is cast onto the addicted — people unable to buy their way into treatment and health. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs on why or how a person becomes addicted, the heroin epidemic is a societal problem and requires public funds to solve it.

This means national, state and local politicians must reach across the proverbial aisle, compromise and deliver solid programs to undo the damage.

Without local treatment options, the health of the community — and the lives of some of its citizens — are at stake.

In America

Although Ohio is dealing with a heroin epidemic, it is not the only state. According to Yahoo News, Ohio ranks 10th on the list of states with a heroin problem. The neighboring states of Kentucky and Indiana rank higher. According to the report, 10,574 people age 12 and older overdosed on the drug in 2014 (latest numbers available) — a substantial increase from 10 years earlier when 2,089 individuals died.

It is also a problem in West Virginia, the state that borders Ohio to the east, as former West Virginia State Senator David Grubb explained last fall when President Barack Obama held a community forum there. Grubb noted that one of his daughters was introduced to heroin in 2009 and said she almost died from an overdose — her fourth — in August, 2015. His wife and he hope, Grubb said, that the August overdose would be the one that led to a successful treatment.

Talking to the crowd, Grubb said,

We are full of hope. But we understand the pain — the pain in this room, the pain the families feel.  The concern we have is access — where do you get the treatment?  How do you get the treatment?

my-hometownMy Hometown: An Outsider’s View From Inside Boehner’s Congressional District

For 25 years one of the most powerful GOP leaders, former Speaker of the House John Boehner, was my Congressman. In My Hometown, I blend statistical evidence with personal stories as I seek to understand how my hometown descended from the thriving community of my childhood to an impoverished area dealing with a heroin epidemic. The eBook opens with the story of William Bruce, the man who founded Eaton, Ohio, and compares Bruce’s concepts of government and community to the methods believed and practiced today.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Current Events, My America, Ohio | Tags: , , ,

Why I Support Black History Month

Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges

In my role as parent I attempted to pass along one core belief to my daughter – empathy.

I wanted her to seek to understand life from another person’s point of view. If she embraces empathy in her life, I feel I accomplished something worthwhile because empathy is a powerful concept. It is living the old saying – before you judge someone walk a mile in their shoes.

Empathy is also one of the reasons I strongly believe in the need for Black History Month. As a white man living in a Congressional District that is predominantly Caucasian I have little interaction with people outside my race and have little real-life knowledge of the struggles related to being Black in America.

America’s Discriminatory Past

History is always told through the eyes of the ruling race, class or faction. When American history is seen through the eyes, of say Native Americans, (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West) it is a significantly different history than the one I know as a Caucasian.

When my daughter was in sixth or seventh grade, she and I had the opportunity to visit the Cherokee Nation – a sovereign country located in Oklahoma. Inside the lobby of the Cherokee Nation Visitor Center a film about the Trail of Tears plays on a continuous loop. When we walked in an older woman, watching the film, overcome with emotion was crying.

As she spoke with a member of the Cherokee Nation, it was apparent she had come to understand the Trail of Tears from their perspective.

The tension between Blacks and Whites has never been resolved in this country. In 2016, serious levels of racial ignorance and racial hatred are still prevalent in the United States. During the past 12 months in my neighborhood the KKK distributed membership flyers with a third-grade level rhyme — Save our Land, Join the Klan.

But, it is not the Klan that I worry about. They have been marginalized to their proper place. I worry about a White culture that refuses to admit it has a problem.

87-Year-Old Victim Of Hate

Just last summer one of the vilest acts of hatred occurred when a racist white man killed nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. One of the victims, Susie Jackson, was 87. Both of my grandmothers lived to about the same age and I cannot fathom someone hating either one of them enough to shoot and murder them. I know if either were murder under such brutal conditions, I would struggle with forgiving the perpetrator and I would want action and answers.

But what unfolded after the death of those nine innocent victims was not a conversation on how to prevent such senseless acts of violence. Instead my Congressman paid lip service to the tragedy by attending the funeral while the House quietly banned a study looking into gun violence. On TV and on social media, the conversation was not about how do we address these acts of evil, instead the discussion was diverted to my Second Amendment Rights and whether or not I can fly a Confederate flag.

If my grandmothers were murdered, I would not be overly interested in people’s opinions on either of those issues.

I would want would be empathy because that would lead to action.

Categories: American History, Current Events | Tags:

Blaming Government Easier Than Connecting The Dots, Solving Problems

19538914179_75e5bb8346_oAlthough they are often idealized, small towns have problems — usually economic ones. As a blogger, one of the downsides of reading reports and statistics is the information can be overwhelmingly depressing, especially when you try to make sense of the conflicting numbers.

For example, despite a four percent unemployment rate in Preble County (where I live), 45 percent of the residents cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment. The low unemployment coupled with the housing situation, suggest that the employed are under-employed and attempting to get by on low-wage jobs.

But we Americans are slow to accept reality or change our perception — we prefer to quote stats. After all, they are the facts. Preble County does have a four percent unemployment rate.

Seeing, But Not Seeing

One of my favorite literary figures is Sherlock Holmes. Part of the universal appeal of Sherlock is his uncanny ability to see the obscure in the obvious. Most of us are more like his sidekick Dr. Watson, we see all the same elements as Holmes, but we cannot connect the dots, because just like Watson, we see but do not observe.

But, I Know What I See
young-woman-old-woman-illusion We are familiar with the various double images that challenge our visual perception. One classic example is the photo to the right which is either an elderly or young woman depending on your viewing angle. We get a sense of satisfaction when we uncover both images.

When I began writing about history, politics and genealogy it was out of a sincere desire to better understand my heritage and my country. That drive has only deepened as I have delved more thoroughly into America’s past and her politics. But it is also disheartening at times, when I see the same old arguments being levied against this or that position. These old, familiar claims have been used, and reused, by political powers of all persuasions to keep people agitated, irritated and confused, but mostly to keep people just where they are.

Who Do You Know?
When I look at the community I handed off to my daughter and her peers, I question what they were given. I also question who they look up to – do they know anyone who has achieved the American Dream? Do you know anyone? Do I? Results speak much louder than political policies.

I live in a District that does not have a Congressman in the House. Former Speaker John Boehner stepped down after 25 years in office and the Ohio governor decided we would elect a new Congressman in June. Even though experts say the length of vacancy is excessive, I’m not sure it matters.

Boehner is a powerful man and a money-raising machine. In the last election cycle Boehner generated more than $100 million for the GOP (Boehner’s Democrat counterpart is just as successful in this game). Today, though, Boehner is not retired playing golf in Florida, he is fundraising. It’s almost as if his sponsors said, enough with your day job, John, we need new funds.

Zero Sum Game
And when it comes to money, politicians have convinced Americans that the U.S. economy works like their checkbook. With our checkbooks, money comes in, money goes out. We make choices – often difficult choices. Do I pay for this and put off paying that? It’s what’s known as a zero-sum game. At the end of the day the checkbook must balance.

The U.S. economy is significantly more complicated than that – it is filled with elements like currency manipulation, tariffs, inflation, deflation and the federal reserve, to name just a few. It is not a zero-sum game. It is not a checkbook. Because of its complicated web of rules and regulations, some companies can thrive for years, like Amazon, without posting a profit.

Simply put, it is a different set of rules.

Your Hometown
Politicians, though, love to explain the American economy as a zero-sum game because people understand a checkbook. Astute politicians exploit this, telling people that to pay for this — funds must be taken from that — all the while hiding the fact, that in many cases, the money is sitting in the till — or that an untapped source of income is simply forgoing tax abatements for wealthy corporations. (According to U.S. law, corporations are citizens, but unlike flesh-and-blood citizens, many wealthy corporate citizen enjoy a tax-free or tax-subsidized life.)

Look at your own paycheck and add up the tax dollars being skimmed off the top. Before you fall back onto some political position or argument – and say this or that group is getting all your tax dollars — take a drive through your community — down the main street of your hometown. Look at the employment opportunities in your region. What kind of jobs exist for you or your children. Look at the infrastructure. Look at the hard scape – those buildings, roads, water-processing plants and other essential elements needed for a strong economy. Look at your home and the homes in your area. Look at the level of affluence, wealth or poverty that exists near or around you.

Then ask yourself, who let this happen? Your neighbor?

Probably not.

Whenever decline is slow and steady, it’s difficult to pin all the blame on any one person or one party. The root cause is more complicated. This is because the source of long-term decline is a series of people and a series of choices over the course of decades. In short, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Maybe, instead of just blaming ‘the government,’ it’s time all of us who vote, connect the dots like Holmes — and figure out who’s winning.

We already know who’s losing.

cast-asideCast Aside: How Political Games Destroy The American Dream

In my youth, I went to a newly constructed elementary school, played ball at the new Little League field that was adjacent to the community swimming pool. Although the local village was small, it had nice amenities, like the pool, and a unique local flavor with its mom-and-pop diners, taverns, sundry store, grocery, filling stations and barber shops. Today, the pool is filled in with dirt and a couple national chain stores have replaced the mom-and-pop businesses. I examine why in Cast Aside.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Current Events, Personal Essays, Preble County | Tags: , , ,