November 22, 2014

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Amherst holds drug forum in response to rash of overdoses

Attendees listen to speakers at Amherst Junior High as part of the meeting Wednesday of the Amherst Community Task Force. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Attendees listen to speakers at Amherst Junior High as part of the meeting Wednesday of the Amherst Community Task Force. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

AMHERST — The rash of opiate overdoses over the course of a weekend last November shocked communities across Lorain County and, for some Amherst residents, sparked a renewed interest in putting a stop to the county’s heroin crisis.

Soon after the overdoses on the weekend of Nov. 9, which resulted in two deaths and sent more than 25 people to the hospital, community leaders and Amherst residents began forming a consortium to discuss the issue. The group, which named itself the Amherst Community Task Force, began meeting in November to come up with ideas to raise awareness about preventing heroin, opiate and other drug use by working as a community.

“We said why don’t we all sit together and talk about it,” said Todd Walts, a group organizer and Amherst resident.

Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans speaks at the drug forum.

Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans speaks at the drug forum.

Walts, along with Lorain County Coroner Stephen Evans, Amherst police Officer Dan Makruski and Kathy and Jim Loos, members of Solace and co-organizers of the Task Force, led a forum at Amherst Junior High on Wednesday to raise awareness about the growing heroin dependency issue in their town and county at large.

What resulted was both a personal and professional look at the effects of drug abuse and how different parts of the community can work together to reduce overdoses.

Kathy Loos, who said that she has dealt with heroin addiction in her family, spoke about the need to work as a community to deal with the problem.

“It’s not an inner-city problem any more,” Loos said, explaining that many Amherst residents are affected by drug abuse and each parent should not only look out for their own children, but all children in the community.

Kathy and Jim Loos, of Amherst and SOLACE Lorain County, speak at the community forum.

Kathy and Jim Loos, of Amherst and SOLACE Lorain County, speak at the community forum.

Evans and Makruski, who have dealt with overdoses firsthand, stressed the need for awareness and explained how police work primarily to revive and help, rather than punish heroin users.

“We’re not looking at cops and criminals, we’re looking at lifesavers and victims,” Evans said of police who are often first responders to the scene of an overdose.

For Walts and many other members of the Amherst Drug Task Force, one of the most important aspects of the evening was to remind Amherst residents that the community must come together to end drug abuse.

“It’s your business and it’s our business,” Walts said.

The group plans to have more meetings to spread awareness and information in the future.

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.


  • http://comradealan.com/ Alan Pugh

    This is a great step for the community to take. Treating addiction as a mental health issue is the correct way forward. I’m happy to see these folks calling for conversations instead of convictions.
    That said, from a friend who was in attendance last night, it appears many of the residents are very misinformed about the safety and usefulness of cannabis. You cannot overdose on cannabis, it is not physically addictive, and it helps with a multitude of medical conditions. If we’re going to focus on helping our community heal from the effects of dangerous drugs, cannabis should not be in the conversation, because it takes attention away from real issues and vilifies something that can be useful to many people.

    • Phil Blank

      Smoking cannabis was mentioned on the Dr. Oz show yesterday, but since I don’t smoke it, I didn’t watch and see what he had to say.

      As for pain killers or pain pills, they all talk loud against them, but just wait until you yourselves really need them for pain and can not get them because of people like Dr. Evans and our Gov. John Kasich!

      Some will end-up dead from OD’ing on NSAIDs like Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Naproxen, Aspirin, Diclofenac, etc.

    • Linda Pardee

      I’m all for getting a handle on the opiate problem in our communities but am frustrated when they include marijuana in this group. No one has ever died from marijuana. To have Dr. Evans, who is obviously ignorant on the subject of medical marijuana, tell those in attendance to vote down any medical marijuana proposition put forth was upsetting. Perhaps the task force should do a little research on cannabis before their next presentation.

  • Phil Blank

    At least he didn’t mention: “”bird flu and World War Z”", like he did in the Journal’s article this morning.
    He lost credibility on that one.

  • stop ur whining

    figure out how to fix junkies. it all starts with them. They choose to poison themselves. those that take heroin are ignorant or weak willed. merely population control.

    • Concerned Parent

      You seem very naive to the topic,. You should have attended the meeting. BTW cannabis was hardly mentioned.

      • stop ur whining

        it really isn’t a very difficult situation to figure out. junkies make a choice to get high. they either know about the drug or they don’t. if they don’t know and put it in their bodies they are stupid. if they do know, they are still stupid, and weak willed.

        heroin is exceedingly addictive and very dangerous. guess what, i was taught that at a young age. you can blame everyone you want, but it all starts with the junkie. without a junkie you do not have overdoses, without a junkie you do not have dealers, without junkies you do not have heroin epidemic.

        the first step in solving any problem is admitting you have one.

        • Razorback Twou

          So, whats your?

          • stop ur whining

            my problem is that there is a gigantic lack of personal responsibility in this world. It is always someone else fault.

        • Tommy Peel

          without a junkie you don’t have overdoses? what about the first time user who overdoses? and you are always going to have dealers.

          • stop ur whining

            those people are stupid. covered that above.

  • ClevelandBill

    Heroin and cocaine used to be legal in this country. Even Eli Lilly used to manufacture these drugs, which were sold OVER THE COUNTER at corner drug stores. In those days, nobody OD’d because of impure or unknown potency drugs. In those days, nobody had to commit crimes or sell their bodies to get drugs. In those days, nobody had to go to low places to get drugs.

    The problem with drugs isn’t in the using, its in the PROHIBITION of them. Just like alcohol prohibition caused the rise of speakeasies, of mobsters, and ever-increasing weaponry to protect the rumrunners turf, drug prohibition creates crack houses and other drug dens, international drug cartels, and OMG you should see the weapons they have and will use.

    You who cannot leave others free to do to themselves as they please have blood on your hands. You who think you should end recreational drug use are responsible for DEATH and for DESTRUCTION in your own communities.

    We were safer when heroin and cocaine were legal and over-the-counter. Just like now, with beer, wine, and liquor. We’re safer with it legal and over-the-counter than we were during prohibition.