Drug addiction “is an equal opportunity illness.” It can strike anyone, just like diabetes and cancer, pointed out Andrew Hertel, Community Behavioral Health, Hamilton, Ohio, director of quality improvement, at a recent public forum on heroin use presented by Batesville’s Community Issues Committee.

The committee member said as the addiction progresses, “you’ll see it get worse in most or all cases.” Relapses are common when the person tries to avoid the drug.

“When you look at substance abuse, you can see it impact all the major life areas – family, emotional health, thinking, recreation, social life, spiritual life.” Brain cells are damaged so users “begin to think and act more emotionally.”

What kind of treatments are available? “Just a few folks” receive the old standard 28-day inpatient treatment due to insurance benefits and lack of funding for indigent populations.

Hertel said physically addictive drugs   such as heroin and alcohol  may be medically managed with detoxification  drugs.

“We know that outpatient treatment works well, almost as good as inpatient treatment.” Intensive programs ranging from individual to group sessions can total nine to 12 hours weekly.

Assessing the right  care is important. To get started, he suggested calling the 800 number found on the back of a health insurance card. “Many companies will offer assistance programs” and free counseling.

Family members should not solve the problem for the addict.  “Let the user do some legwork. It shouldn’t be your problem ‘to fix them.’”

Attendees asked questions anonymously on index cards and also from the audience.

How much does heroin cost? I hear different answers.

“Heroin is cheap. You can get a $20 bag of heroin and get high and stay high for a few hours,” said Angel Schiering, 29, Cedar Grove, a volunteer parent advocate in Franklin County for United Families. “I lost a really good friend of mine. He overdosed on heroin in January. A seasoned addict can get high for $40 all day long. It’s cheaper to purchase heroin than prescription pills.”

Parent Tom Horninger reported OxyContin, a narcotic painkiller, can be purchased for $10-$12 a pill. Hertel said that price rises to $20-$60 in cities.

When a teen knows who is selling illegal drugs, how can parents or authorities be told without being a social pariah?

“It takes a lot of courage for a young person to speak up,” acknowledged committee member John Mallery, Community Mental Health Center outpatient services division director.

Police Chief Stan Holt said after Cierra Adams, 18, died of a heroin overdose in July, “we had kids just pouring into our police station” with information.

“I know you don’t see results immediately, but I can assure you both parents and kids have stepped up to the plate after this tragic incident ... 99 percent of the time, teens don’t have to testify in court.”

The chief explained, “One little piece (of information) could help out tremendously” in solving a case, such as a vehicle description.

In the future, an anonymous tip line might be implemented.

Dr. Jim Roberts, committee facilitator and Batesville Community School Corp. superintendent, suggested persons with information call police dispatchers  at 934-3131.

Students also could talk to school teachers or administrators. A dropbox and school tip line are being considered as well.

If a child is caught doing drugs in school, what’s the punishment?

“Expulsion,” answered Roberts. A first offense would cause the student to be expelled for a partial or full semester.

He added that he and Holt often do not share information to protect citizens’ privacy. “As you talk about these situations,” he wishes persons would state facts, but not rumors.

How can reluctant parents be encouraged  to seek help for a child who is using drugs? 

“Keep talking to them,” advised parent Mary Horninger. Another parent recommended calling the county’s Department of Child Services. Hertel agreed a worker could offer an assessment and decide what treatment was needed.

Tom Horninger noted users in recovery helped with their son’s intervention. “Nothing gets through to a teenager like another teen or adult (who has been in the same situation)  telling them what it’s all about.”

Are there addiction resources in Batesville? An area family had to travel to Cincinnati and Indianapolis for help.

Community Mental Health Center has offices in Batesville and as close as St. Leon, but “it’s hard to respond to the community’s needs with very limited resources,”  Mallery admitted.  Being always available for individuals who need aid “is a tall order.” 

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