AVON LAKE — Mayor Greg Zilka knew he was taking a risk when he spoke Monday at the City Council meeting about the need for a community forum to develop a better way to deal with the escalating problem of drug abuse.
“I knew I was taking a bit of a risk by declaring we have a problem here,” Zilka said. “Some people will make the assumption that it’s only us, but this is every city’s problem. They all have the same thing going on.”
The idea for a public forum in early June sprang in part from the drug-related deaths in Lorain County nearly tripled from 22 in 2011 to 60 in 2012.
Of those, four drug-related deaths have occurred in Avon Lake.
“If these were auto deaths, that would be very shocking,” Zilka said. “We would be appalled. We wouldn’t stand for it.
“These tragedies involved people who were in their 20s. We should have as much intolerance for this type of thing as for any other loss of life. That’s why we need this forum, so we can all become better educated about what’s going on.”
He credited Lisa Goodwin, the city’s recreation program director, with motivating him to start the ball rolling for a drug education forum.
Goodwin created a local group in 2007 that focused on drug and alcohol abuse “to make people aware of what’s going on and how people can cope with it,” Zilka said.
Catherine Gabe, coordinator of Communities that Care of Lorain County, has talked with Zilka about the forum, which she termed a proactive step.
“We know that prescription drugs and heroin are really epidemic in the county,” Gabe said. “It’s terrific the city is trying to literally change the environment. We need to start talking about it.”
Gabe is also involved with SOLACE Lorain County, a support group that helps families coping with the loss of loved ones from drug overdoses and those struggling with substance-abuse issues.
A similar town hall-style meeting in Amherst in February drew a standing room-only crowd.
The forum may include recovering addicts willing to share their stories in hopes of preventing others from following in their footsteps, and families who have lost loved ones to drug abuse.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.