ARCANUM — A Heroin Awareness/Town Hall Meeting took place at Family of God Ministries, in Arcanum, Ohio, Saturday, April 22.
Featured speakers were: Arcanum Mayor Judy Foureman, Darke County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker, Darke County Common Pleas Court Judge Jonathan Hein, Hope In Recovery Program Director Rev. John Wiltshire, Superintendent of Arcanum Butler Schools John Stephens and Ohio Senator Bill Beagle (District 5).
Family of God Ministries Pastor Dr. Joe LeMaster organized the event. This was the church’s second Heroin Awareness event. The first on Saturday, March 4, ended with a question/answer session that Pastor LeMaster felt needed more time. This second event was designed strictly for the speakers to answer peoples’ questions about heroin and other substance abuse problems.
“This is our best effort at trying to get something started,” LeMaster said. “If you are looking for a place to have an event and you don’t have a church, come talk to me.”
Some of the guests were concerned about what they considered a lack of law enforcement, such as Arcanum resident Don Oliver. He said he has experienced drug overdoses and addictions in his home.
“Why did this happen? Where was our Police Department? I am asking all of you,” he said. “This has affected and is still affecting my children, my friends and my family. You are saying it is our responsibility. It is – all of us need to come together as a tribe and fight this.”
Mayor Foureman said people have to help each other in this fight against drug abuse.
“These professionals have rules and can only go step by step,” she said. “You all can go out and work together and help each other.”
Chief Deputy Whittaker said when someone dies of an overdose and there is an investigation into that, it seems reasonable to think law enforcement should go after that drug dealer who gave that person the drug and charge them with some sort of murder charge. He explained some things about Ohio law that can prevent those charges from happening.
“You have to understand that oftentimes when someone is a drug addict or a substance abuser and they inject, snort, smoke or do the drug, they do it themselves,” he said. “Oftentimes, addicts know what they are doing is harmful, but it is the addiction that can’t make them stop. That doesn’t mean we don’t think we should stop those dealing in drugs and heroin.”
Chief Deputy Whittaker went on to explain that drugs are typically brought into our county in small amounts which sell for about $5 a gel cap. He said, some folks will buy maybe 10 caps, come to the county and sell to those folks who they know are on drugs for $10 a cap and make a little money.
“Those are the kind of drug traffickers we have, which fall in the level of fourth or fifth-degree felonies – the lowest level drug trafficking cases,” he said. “We don’t have big time drug dealers that are breaking heroin off of a brick. That is not happening here, that we know of, and there isn’t any evidence or intelligence supporting that.”
In addition, Whittaker said often during death or overdose investigations people are not cooperative to those in uniform.
“We can ask questions, but 90-95 percent of the time, by the time someone calls 911 on an overdose or an overdose death, our crime scene has already been cleaned up, the drugs have been picked up and taken care of and we have no physical evidence. If i go to an overdose death scene and the needle is still there, that is an unusual thing for us. The Darke County Sheriff’s office will seize all evidence and obtain a search warrant if necessary.”
Senator Beagle said the drug problem is unifying.
“Across the entire state, it touches every district – it is everywhere,” he said. “It is the one thing we can all agree on is a huge problem. We have done a lot to try and solve it. We have passed 14 bills and counting over the past six to seven years to try to help this problem.”
According to Senator Beagle, some of the state’s initiatives are: working to address increases in fentanyl – related deaths, trying to improve pathways to treatment, trying to crack down on drug trafficking and the flow of drugs, preventing drug addiction before it starts, working on controlling the use and availability of pain medications that lead to accidental overdose and expanding access to Narcan. In addition, he said said to talk to the children.
“That is one thing you can do that doesn’t cost you anything,” Chief Deputy Whittaker said. “Let’s talk about what are we going to do to stop the folks who are young from getting into this. Every single person, I believe, has a connection to a child. We have to be willing not to make this a taboo subject matter anymore in our homes, and it doesn’t cost you anything but a little time.”
EDS NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing series titled “Fatal Addiction” that will address the drug problem and effects on residents and resources in Darke County.