Don’t let the opioid epidemic be the norm

Last year we featured in the paper a longtime heroin user who was celebrating being clean and sober. He spoke of rebuilding his life and his relationships, of feeling clear-headed as he spent time with his children. His daughter no longer told him “Daddy, you’ve got them funny eyes.”

These days, he doesn’t even remember participating in the story. His name is back in police reports and jail logs. He’s still fighting this crisis that has overtaken so many communities and threatens ours.

It’s a reminder, as another year wraps up, that we need to continue the fight, too.

There isn’t going to be a quick fix. Not for him and not for all of us. It’s a complex issue, it’s a hard cycle to break and there are so many ripple effects.

As this war wages on, in our community and so many others, we can’t grow desensitized. We can’t grow tired.

As the days, weeks and months of the opioid epidemic have marched on, there seem to be fewer local meetings and public conversations about solutions. There’s less outrage and more weary resignation.

But we know people haven’t forgotten.

Those families who don’t know if their loved ones are safe and when they might get a life-changing call haven’t forgotten.

Those foster children, taken from the chaos of their homes to live with strangers, haven’t forgotten.

Our local law enforcement, responding to a woman shooting up in a store parking lot with her baby in the car, haven’t forgotten.

We can’t either, as endless and fruitless as the fight sometimes seems.

We’ve had some monumental things happen in Washington County this year that were a long time coming. Our first residential rehabilitation house, Oriana House, opened in Reno. Our judges now have a treatment sentencing option right here at home. In November, on its fifth attempt, the county passed a levy for the Behavorial Health Board to help fund mental health and addiction services. We were one of only 12 counties in Ohio without this funding.

Let’s build on that momentum.

The Washington County Behavorial Health Board meetings are open to the public. Attend if you can. Be part of the planning process for how this money is spent and how it can help. We run the meeting schedule in the paper and information is available at

Talk about it. Don’t let this epidemic just become the norm. If you see someone struggling, offer the resources that you can. Know that someone who appears to have beaten their addiction may fall down again. As a community, let’s continue to do all we can to pick them back up.