Heroin is bad.
We’ve established that in the last three years of reporting on its death toll right here in our small communities. It’s a simple truth that can’t be argued. The question is: How the hell do we stop it? I am frustrated and searching for any kind of answer that provides some hope.
Some answers might be put forward soon at a forum on drug addiction. It will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 5 at the Patricia Lindley Center for the Performing Arts, Wellington.
It doesn’t matter where you reside in Lorain County — we think you should go.
Chances are good that you know someone who is battling addiction. One in five Ohio residents knows someone who is struggling with heroin, a new state study shows. Their battle might be well-hidden. They may look successful to friends and family even while risking death by overdose in private. You need to know what to look for and how to help.
Heroin is a big offender right now in Ohio, taking at least 23 lives each week.
That statistic headlined a “60 Minutes” segment Sunday night on CBS, which focused on the saturated Columbus heroin market: “Ohio has been hard hit by heroin and we selected Columbus because the area is Middle America personified — where companies have gone for years to test and market new products,” reporter Bill Whitaker said. “Now it’s where drug dealers, many of them from Mexico, are marketing their cheap and increasingly powerful heroin.”
Arrests have not worked. Sheriffs and prosecutors can’t press charges fast enough to solve the state’s drug problem. When they try, new types of drugs pop up, like the super-morphine variants that have surfaced in Amherst, Elyria, and local townships. Even Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine acknowledged we’re not winning after fighting the drug war for decades.
Drug courts could be a good answer — there are 91 in Ohio, including one being launched at the Justice Center in Elyria. They are founded on the “revolutionary” idea that heroin addicts should be treated more like patients than criminals, a viewpoint that seems to be reflected by police chiefs in Amherst, Oberlin, and Wellington.
Now we have to change the hearts and minds of readers, many who feel judges should solely be punishing those who break the law, not helping them get treatment. We’ve seen that kind of attitude when publishing stories recently about inmates… there is a deep desire to see criminals suffer. That’s understandable, especially with heinous crimes. But if the point of incarceration is rehabilitation, which it is under the law, then we need to think of sentencing as corrective rather than punitive.
The recidivism rate indicates lock-up as punishment just doesn’t work. A study published in August 2015 by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections showed prisoners who successfully completed therapeutic programs while behind bars fared far better after release; in fact, the number who returned to jail within three years was cut almost in half.
The bottom line is that the war isn’t working. It’s time we reevaluated our approach.