New recovery house gives Warren County hope
Jacob Brase | Staff Writer
While some may ignore it, the heroin epidemic is real and present in Warren County. But, there is hope, as volunteers have been fighting back against the silent killer in the community.
One City Against Heroin (OCAH) is a group of business leaders who seek to support projects that combat the local heroin epidemic. In November, the organization purchased a property in Lebanon, Ohio with the intent of helping victims of heroin addiction get their lives back on track. The recovery home is expected to be finished in May and will fill a need Warren County has had for a long time.
The recovery house provides a place for people who may not live in areas that promote a life of recovery. OCAH chairman Greg Cocca said that this safe environment is a necessity.
“There is no recovery house in Warren County–none. We have just as big a problem as everyone else but no one really wants to face up to it,” Cocca said. “Once you’re done getting detoxed and off of heroin, where do you go? A lot of these people don’t really have a safe place to rebuild their life. It’s very easy for them to go back and start using heroin again.”
Terry Smith, the Executive Director of OCAH, said the house will provide for a certain type of individual in the community.
“There is an assessment that determines if these people are really ready to live a life of recovery,” Smith said. “It is open to people who are no longer addicted and are literally just rebuilding their lives and want to live in a safe sober environment.”
In 2014, Warren County reported 40 deaths from Opioids. In 2016, 70 deaths were confirmed. The numbers for 2017 are expected to be even higher.
Cocca, who lives in Mason, said heroin overdose is undoubtedly present in his community.
“People are dying. Whether we want to believe it or not, people are dying in Warren County,” Cocca said. It’s easy to put your head in the sand and pretend this isn’t in your neighborhood, but it is.”
To many, heroin has a reputation of being most commonly used in lower class communities. But the presence of the epidemic in Warren County has proven heroin affects people of all walks of life. According to Terry Smith, the majority of opioid users in Warren County are upscale middle class individuals.
Through local organizations, these four Warren County citizens are now recovering from heroin addiction.
Tim Senff is the community pastor at Crossroads Mason, where One City Against Heroin is housed. Senff is also on the board of OCAH, and he said heroin is not particular to a certain group of people.
“We have people who are struggling with heroin addiction in our own church, at Crossroads Mason. We have people in our church who have children that have died from heroin addiction,” Senff said. “It cuts across any socioeconomic, racial, and geographic lens. It’s hurting everyone.”
Senff said that it is important to keep working towards change when faced with an epidemic of this proportion.
“Every epidemic of this size feels impossible to beat at some point,” Senff said. “Yet when people begin addressing the problem, when communities dive in and say, ‘Hey, we can beat this,’ you make progress.”
The construction of the heroin recovery house is just one project One City Against Heroin has started. OCAH’s mission is to catalyze the community towards ending the heroin epidemic, and the group has done just that with work like their Care Coordinators project. Care Coordinators are full time employees who meet individuals who have used heroin or are addicted to heroin and get them into treatment. OCAH started by hiring one care coordinator, then hired two more with assistance from local counties.
Smith, who oversees the care coordinators, said the project is making a difference in the community.
“Our most impactful project has been our Care Coordinators. They go (into the community) with a heroin response team, and they take people to treatment. These three women are out there in Warren, Butler and Clinton counties taking people to treatments every week,” Smith said. “Last year, the three of them got 514 people into treatment.”
Smith has also seen change through a program called Drug Court.
“We now have a program where when these people are arrested, they are offered an opportunity to participate in Drug Court,” Smith said. “This process allows their criminal record to be completely wiped, so they are not stuck with these low-level felonies that prevent them from getting their lives back.”
Smith said the community should feel encouraged by the progress that has been made.
“If we all work together, we can really make a difference, and we’re proving it every day with One City Against Heroin,” Smith said. “There are so many wonderful stories of hope out there. We’re starting to do things differently, and it’s working.”
This summer, the heroin recovery house will open in Lebanon, Ohio, just 15 minutes north of Mason.
Smith said through projects like the recovery house, OCAH will fight this epidemic the only way they know how.
“One soul at a time.”
Photos contributed by Terry Smith.