November 28, 2014

Mostly cloudy

Residents affected by heroin tell their stories at rally to combat epidemic

Aliviah Williams of Vermillion stands with the support of members of Recovering Souls Barb Szekely and John Szekely of Lorain, Rocky Williamson of Elyria, and Michael Shelton of Elyria at Saturday's Drug Task Force Rally at Lakeview Park. AMANDA K. RUNDLE/CHRONICLE

Aliviah Williams of Vermillion stands with Barb Szekely and John Szekely, of Lorain, Rocky Williamson of Elyria, and Michael Shelton, of Elyria, who attended Saturday’s Drug Task Force Rally at Lakeview Park to support those who are trying to overcome heroin addiction. AMANDA K. RUNDLE/CHRONICLE

Correction: Rocky Williamson and Michael Shelton, both of Elyria, said they and Barb and John Szekely, of Lorain, are not ex-heroin users. They said the quartet attended Saturday’s Drug Task Force rally in Lorain to support those who are trying to overcome addiction to the drug. A headline and photo caption in the print edition of Sunday’s paper may not have made that clear.

LORAIN — To stop heroin’s destruction of lives, the drug’s ugliness must be brought out into the open.

That was the message at Saturday night’s Hope Not Dope Rally Against Heroin at Lakeview Park, where more than 100 people gathered to share stories in an effort to combat the heroin epidemic.

Lori Pinero, whose 24-year-old daughter, Tera Guest, died after overdosing on heroin in January, led the rally with pleas for the community to get involved.

Pinero said she will never forget the cold, snowy night when she got a call at 4 a.m. that her daughter died.

“The heartache doesn’t stop, it doesn’t end. I have another daughter who’s struggling every day to not end up where her sister did,” Pinero said.

Pinero now has custody of Guest’s 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter, which she says is an honor, but also a tragedy because a generation of grandparents are finding themselves caring for grandchildren because heroin has taken the parents’ lives or left them incapable of caring about their own children’s welfare.

Fighting back tears, Pinero said she wants those struggling, whether addicts or their family members, to know they are not alone.

“There are plenty of families still in this,” Pinero said. “Whether we close our curtains and shut our doors, it’s still out there, it still exists, and it’s robbing us of our beautiful children every day.

Chelsie Hensley and Josh Wilson stand in the crowd at the rally, where Hensley also shared her story of struggle and survival.

Chelsie Hensley and Josh Wilson stand in the crowd at the rally, where Hensley also shared her story of struggle and survival.

“I don’t know how to stop it. All I know how to do is keep screaming against it.”

Chelsie Hensley, 25, was caught in the crippling grip of a heroin addiction for several years. Hensley was Guest’s best friend, had overdosed once in Guest’s bed and was charged with child endangering and possession of heroin in 2012 when police found her unconscious in her car with her 3-year-old daughter after shooting up heroin.

Sober for more than a year, she said heroin will make anyone who uses it into a deplorable human being with no regard for anything other than their next fix.

“I never thought I would live to see (sobriety),” Hensley said. “I overdosed and was hospitalized four times. Heroin is the worst drug you could ever do, and it makes you do things you would never even imagine you would do.”

Linda Gradisek, 54, of Vermilion, has custody of her four grandchildren because their mother is still on the streets using. She said children of heroin addicts are brought up in a world of misery. When she took custody of her grandchildren they were malnourished, underdeveloped and one had permanent scarring from untreated scabies.

“The horrors these children lived through is a travesty,” Gradisek said. “No child should have to witness such things. They witnessed pill parties, sex parties, pistol whipping, crime, violence and abuse that will stay with them forever.”

Anthony Villa, 56, started shooting heroin at 15. Today he’s been sober for 28 years and serves as the executive director of Fortaleza, an agency providing opiate addiction and recovery services.

“People need to start by reaching out and asking somebody for help,” Villa said.

Lorain County Coroner Stephen Evans said there were 61 fatal heroin overdoses in 2012 and 67 in 2013. So far in 2014, there have been more than 30, Evans said, and police have saved an additional 42 lives since October by administering Narcan.

Evans said prescription pill addiction needs to be addressed as well, because addicts don’t start down their self-destructive path with heroin.

“Once people can’t get pills, they move on to heroin because it is readily available and it’s cheap,” Evans said. “Pills on the street cost $50, but you can get a hit of heroin for $5.”

Raising awareness and bringing the community together also are vital to stemming the tide of tragedies caused by heroin, Evans said.

“The key to the whole problem is education,” Evans said. “People need to know opiates and heroin kill, so maybe they will avoid even getting on it. And for those who have started, they need to get help to get off of it, because otherwise they’ll die.”

Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123 or Follow him on Twitter @JonWysochanski. 

Resources for those seeking help

Lorain Intergroup Office

  • 710 Broadway, Lorain, (440) 246-1800. Information on local meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Heroin Anonymous.

Arid Fellowship Center

  • 1741 North Ridge Road, Lorain. Holds meetings daily and is a clean and sober place for people to gather.

Recovering Souls

  • (440) 341-2975. A local motorcycle club of recovering addicts and alcoholics.

Let’s Get Real Inc.

  • 5541 Liberty Ave., (440) 963-0147. Provides information and resources to families and their loved ones in their journey to recovery and also has lists of Heroin Anonymous meetings.


  • 41641 North Ridge Road, Suite B, Elyria, (440) 752-1766. A resource center for addicts and their families.

  • Sis Delish

    A Story of three young women (with children) and one adult male.

    The Male kicked it, while the three “mother’s” have/did not. As a casual observer of The Facts, it would appear heroin is akin to Welfare as the dependency is extreme especially for single mothers and once on it, almost impossible to kick. (I do not include Chelsie Hensley in these figures because the story did not disclose whether she has custody of her child once again, evidence that she is capable of putting her children ahead of her possible recidivism with Heroin)

    Question is: How do these citizens continue to receive benefits if they are strung out? The incidence of trading EBT Cards for cash makes the local Welfare Department an Enabler of the continuing scourge, in my opinion.

    • tomfeher

      Drug test welfare folks. I was a truck driver for many years and had to get drug tested even tho I’ve never used drugs. Pilots, truxker and many others have to pass drug tests. Why not welfare?

      • SniperFire

        Exactly. Stop the permissiveness, control the problem.

      • tickmeoff

        Drug testing is not living up to it’s hype. It never has and never will. It is a false sense of security. The hard drugs, Heroin and Cocaine are out of the system within 3 days. So the hard drug users will not be caught and they are the one’s who will steal you blind. It is most effective with pot users in that the THC remains in the system for months. I am old enough to remember the job review. How many times were you late, how many days did you miss, how were your production and quality numbers? The problem with drug testing is the employer owns you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

        Face it, when you submit to a drug test, you are more like a slave than an individual who has rights. You are forced to abide by other people’s rules even when you are off the clock.

        The worse drug related to performance is alcohol, and most people who have to get up early and hit it, knows that drinking the night before is not worth it, and will wait till the weekend. I will take a pothead over a stumbling drunk any day.

        Bottom line….If you are exchanging your time for a wage, you are a slave, not an employee, CEO’s don’t take drug tests, just the common man and women. An employer should own you for 8 hours a day, not 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Yeah you’re a free man…….NOT!

        • Larry Crnobrnja

          Heroin and cocaine can be detected in your hair over much longer periods. You are correct if you’re only talking about urine or blood testing.

          If you’re receiving government assistance, you should be responsible for finding work 24/7. You should be sober all the time.

          Everything else you posted is a straw man argument.

          • jz

            There are kids with college degrees that can’t find jobs. Yes, they should be trying to find a job but the above post is spot on.

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            Your hair grows about 1/2 inch per month. Your hair is a marker for what has been in your system. tickmeoff was incorrect and everything else was just a straw man.

            Now get off your butt and find a job!

          • jz

            Is your company hiring?

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            Always looking for good people. Send me your resume.

          • Reagan

            Does your company hire ex-cons?

          • tickmeoff

            Larry, i have worked my entire life. I believe it makes one responsible.I have never met you. Maybe you think you know me. You don’t. You have a habit of bringing in the Straw man argument, I will give you an example. ” The straw man fallacy occurs in the following pattern of argument:

            Person 1 asserts proposition X.

            Person 2 argues against a false but superficially similar proposition Y, as if that were an argument against Person 1′s position.

            This reasoning is a fallacy of relevance: it fails to address the proposition in question by misrepresenting the opposing position.

            For example:

            Quoting an opponent’s words out of context—i.e., choosing quotations that misrepresent the opponent’s actual intentions (see fallacy of quoting out of context).[5]

            Presenting someone who defends a position poorly as the defender, then denying that person’s arguments—thus giving the appearance that every upholder of that position (and thus the position itself) has been defeated.[4]

            Inventing a fictitious persona with actions or beliefs which are then criticized, implying that the person represents a group of whom the speaker is critical.

            Oversimplifying an opponent’s argument, then attacking this oversimplified version.

            You miss the entire point. Free men don’t piss in jars, only kept men. Making people who work take the test and those who own the company not take the test is morally wrong. It’s an invasion of privacy, and people take the test because they have no choice. If they don’t take the test, they don’t get the job. The employer controls the employee for one third of their life. To control the other two thirds is what drug testing does.
            I lived before drug testing and have lived in it, taking many tests myself. It is the height of hypocrisy to claim that people are free to be poor if they don’t take the test. Take the test or don’t get the job. As to people being sober 24 hours a day sounds like something a communist would espouse. God bless America and the people who still know what true freedom is. Obviously you don’t!

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            I responded DIRECTLY to your first assertion:

            “Drug testing is not living up to it’s hype. It never has and never will. It is a false sense of security. The hard drugs, Heroin and Cocaine are out of the system within 3 days. So the hard drug users will not be caught and they are the one’s who will steal you blind.”

            I provided an opposing position that is founded in fact. The rest of your post is a diatribe full of straw man arguments. Good day!

        • jz


        • golfingirl

          If you can afford the drugs, you can afford to contribute to your own food and housing, taking less from taxpayers.

          Every dollar spent on drugs, results in another dollar they need to get from someplace else…..usually the government.

          “The hard drugs, Heroin and Cocaine are out of the system within 3 days. So the hard drug users will not be caught….”

          If they are “hard drug users”, they likely will not be able to go 3 days without a fix, therefore the test should be able to detect drug use, through urine and blood. These tests are random, so you never know when a person will show up to test you.

          “You are forced to abide by other people’s rules even when you are off the clock.”…….get off the taxpayer’s clock and you can do as you please.

          • ami

            You do realize that not everyone pays for drugs right? Some people do sexual favors, some people do runs for the dealers, etc..

          • golfingirl

            But a lot of people do…….how else would the drug dealers stay in business?

            They are in business… profit, they are out of business.

          • ami

            Yes of course, but the majority of addicts that I’ve known didnt get public assistance.. they worked, did side jobs, etc… I just don’t like when people clump welfare & addicts into one category, that would be like me saying all religious people are evil, selfish, money hungry bigots.. of course some are, but most aren’t.. addicts need help, bashing them isn’t helping, there are kids in Avon Lake High School & North Ridgeville High School that are doing heroin who clearly arent on assistance, their parents fund their habits unknowingly

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            If you know a lot of heroin addicts, you might want to reconsider the crowd you’re hanging with. Just saying…

          • ami

            Never said I hung out with them, but even if I did thats my business.. I have family & friends I went to school with that are addicts & some have died from it.. thanks for the advice though

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            No charge for the advice. Best of luck to you.

        • golfingirl

          “……If you are exchanging your time for a wage, you are a slave…..”

          So every worker in this country is a “slave?”

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            tickmeoff drank the class warfare water.

          • golfingirl

            He always does.

            If he thinks CEOs receive preferential treatment, he should become one.

        • Otter

          Last time I checked, the drugs that are tested for are illegal, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

        • SpaceTech

          You have no idea what you are talking about! You just sound like another guy who doesn’t like working for “The Man”
          Drug testing works and has worked for many many years–many employers even test for alcohol.
          Defense jobs and security cleared jobs also rely on coworker information regarding coworkers fitness for job requirements.
          Who cares if the boss is tested unless he performs the same job as you?
          Most all transportation jobs require drug testing but if you are more comfortable flying on an aircraft from a company that doesn’t drug test its pilots or mechanics? Please by all means feel free to climb aboard!

      • jz

        The mere fact someone is on welfare does not mean they are in positions that they are responsible for others safety. Sounds like a good idea, but, like some situations the cure would be worse than the illness and just create more new problems. I would say the the so called War on Poverty itself created more problems than it solved. Another example of an extreme lack of foresight by politicians, or, more like a way to garner votes.

      • Reagan

        The majority of those who receive public assistance such as food stamps are children. So should we be drug testing children?

        • Larry Crnobrnja

          In many cases, those children are on assistance because the adult or adults they rely on are unemployable because of drug use.

          Try another argument.

          • Reagan

            So we should punish the children because of the parents?

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            We should get their parents off of drugs so they can take care of their families. Who said we should penalize the children?

          • Reagan

            Well if we drug test the parents and they fail what course of action should be taken?

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            I don’t know, it’s a very difficult situation. Perhaps the children should become wards of the state? I’m sure that sucks, but is it worse than living with drug addicts who can’t support themselves?

          • Reagan

            This is my point. There are no easy answers to this complex problem.

  • Creepy Gun Toting Cracker

    You guys rock, keep fighting the good fight.

  • Arietta Sullivan

    i am happy for the ones who has been able to beat the habit&pray for the ones who is still struggling on it to get off of it.

  • ami

    If welfare started drug testing everyone then everyone would be complaining about their tax dollars going towards that.. it just seems to me that the people in this country just want to have something to complain about so they feel superior to others.. who cares about friggin welfare, this is about heroin! I’ve known plenty of people that weren’t on assistance that were on heroin & died.. its a shame that people cant have a conversation without belittling others :(

    • Larry Crnobrnja

      “its a shame that people cant have a conversation without belittling others”

      Talk about the pot calling the kettle black…
      (I’ll let you have some time to figure that one out.)