EATON — The Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Board and the Preble County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership (SAPP) held an appreciation breakfast on Friday, May 3, for all who play a part in fighting the drug epidemic in Ohio.
The event opened with Mental Health and Recovery Board Executive Director Amy Raynes thanking those in attendance for their work in Preble County. She also thanked everyone who played a part in planning the appreciation breakfast.
Representative J. Todd Smith spoke about first responders and their dedication to their communities.
“There are very few people that run towards trouble, that runs towards the shooting. The greatest example of that is 9/11 when there was thousands of people running out of the Twin Towers, we a lot of times forget to realize there was a few hundred that were running into them. If we don’t have the kind of people like you in our community, we will never be the kind of community that we want to live in or that God intended,” Todd Smith said.
“Think about this, those people that ran into — if you’ve been into the memorial or were there when these things happened, these were people that ran into those towers not to save their husbands, wives, or children, they ran into that to save strangers. It takes a special sort of heart to do what you do, and we are fortunate as a community to have people like you with the heart you have that wants to reach out and help strangers. We’re grateful for your calling, because what you truly do is a God calling.”
Eaton Fire and EMS Chief Brian Smith spoke about the Fire and EMS perspective of the drug epidemic.
“2017 was a pretty tough year for us, not nearly as tough as what it is for the addicts going through the crisis. As a small community, we responded to almost 100 heroin overdoses that year. If you put it in context per capita, that is significant. We lost a little bit of focus as well, maybe had a little bit of compassion fatigue towards the end of that year, as we were responding to emergencies that we typically responded to very few of,” Brian Smith said.
“Our highest year total prior to 2017 was 2009. When you’re tripling your response on a certain instance, it can get a little taxing. I think, collectively as a community, and I want to thank those of you who are in here who are recovering, that have taken that step and are doing better for yourselves, that is case in point in why we do what we do. People have their own varying opinion and they want to question things a lot, but when you see folks that you saw on the worst day in their life maybe three or four different times and then you get to see them sitting in a room and they’re doing better, that is what takes the place of that compassion fatigue long term for us, because it makes what we do kind of worth it.
“Through the efforts, the community efforts at least here locally, we’ve seen those numbers dropped significantly. 2018 we responded on 30 for the entire year. You’re cutting the previous years responses down to a third. We’re on pace this year to see even less. Not just from us, but from everybody sitting here, we’re all on the same page and all doing a good job.”
Santo Landerer is one of the facilitators for Life Recovery Group. He thanked first responders and the agencies in attendance for driving addicts to recovery.
“You are our rescuers. You’ve rescued us from what we’ve done, nobody else. You’ve been our best friends. The police officers made our lives miserable on drugs and drove us to recovery. Court systems, you’ve helped do that. What we did not understand was you made our lives miserable till we came to a clarity of understanding that you were our best friends,” Landerer said.
“It happens in a chance in our lives and then it comes so understandable that finally we realize we were wrong. We share that with somebody else till they get help. I just want to give our gratitude from us.”
Eaton Police Chief Steve Hurd spoke on the drug epidemic and how it has affected the police department.
“In 2017, we handled 393 drug incidents. In 2018, we handled 299 drug incidents. Approximately 100 less. In 2019, to date, we’ve handled 64. We’ve on pace to handle 100 less this year compared to last year. We’re headed in the right direction, so that is great,” Hurd said.
“Over the past year we’ve seen a switch from heroin to meth and cocaine. With the heroin, we faced an increase of drug needles, so we did things as the Eaton Police Department to take care of that issue, because it is an officer safety issue. In our cruisers we now carry drop containers to properly dispose of those needles and we also no longer drug test drugs on scene. We now send directly to the drug lab to be tested.
“One of the things I’m most proud of, is in 2018 we shut down and boarded up a drug house. This drug house actually had 101 complaints, we took 27 reports, we cited 11 nuisance violations, we had 22 arrests out of that house, and we executed a search warrant. We were able to do that because of the great relationship we have with our community and the great relationship we have with all the other Preble County agencies.”
Job and Family Services Director Becky Sorrell thanked those in attendance and expressed her attitude for all that the agencies do in the community. She also talked about Job and Family Services role in helping those with addiction and their families.
“The majority of the people receiving cash assistance and food stamps in Preble County are actually children. They are the children on folks who aren’t able to provide that support and self sufficiency for their families, it is the children who are receiving assistance from Preble County Job and Family Services,” Sorrell said.
“The Job Center is working with employers who are trying to find enough employees to fill their open positions, but yet the folks who need jobs are not able to pass a drug test to be able to work. The Job Center is working with different agencies to try and help them with recovery, while looking at some programs that are happening currently in Indiana that help people in recovery with their employers. So, we’re looking at funding that will be able to help businesses in the community to help support recovery while that person is working.
“For Children Services, in 2019, we have had 42 investigations of abuse and neglect of children. 32 of those have been related to this drug epidemic. While the numbers are going down – and that is great – we still are serving families who are actively using. Staff are going into those homes, they don’t know what to expect when they get there, it is a very difficult job, they are trying to support that family through the recovery and at the same time make sure the children are safe.
“It is so fortunate that we can connect with the other agencies in the county and provide those services. We can get together as a group and talk about what the family needs. I am thankful for that and I am thankful for everyone in this room.”
Preble County Commissioner Rodney Creech spoke about the drug epidemic in the State of Ohio and how fortunate Preble County is for having agencies who care for each other in a close knit community.
“Thank you to all of our leaders in the community, whether it be the chiefs or directors, everyone working together, we appreciate your support,” Creech said. “We can’t thank you all enough, our Fire, EMS, Police, First Responders, Child Services – there are so many that are on the front lines that we can’t thank you enough for what you do. I want you to know that Preble County appreciates all you do. Keep up the good work.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH