The meeting was the second of an ongoing initiative that will
create a strategic plan based on a 4-Pillar approach to fighting
addiction. The pillars of the plan are prevention, treatment,
enforcement, and harm reduction. This new movement is being driven
by the Healthy Communities Partnership Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other
Destructive Behaviors (ATOD) Task Force.
For the meeting last week, Nadia Klekamp of Chestnut Health Systems
and a member of the ATOD served as the emcee/moderator.
Klekamp began by sharing some statistics on a PowerPoint
- Heroin use has increased significantly in the past few
years, and it continues to rise.
- The number of people who die from heroin-related overdoses
in the United States is nearly four times what it was a decade
- Heroin use and overdose has increased significantly in Logan
County over the past ten years.
- Twenty-three percent of people who use heroin become
dependent on it, making it the most addictive drug.
Klekamp said that the mission of this group was to reduce the
use and overdose statistics in Logan County through the Four
She then told a story of three men blindfolded and led to an
elephant. Each man placed their hands on the elephant on
different parts of its body. She said that each man had a
different perspective as to what they were dealing with, but at
the same time, they were all three touching the same elephant.
She went on to comment that in Logan County, several agencies
are “touching” the heroin issue locally, but they see it from
their own viewpoints, their own perspectives. What needs to
happen now is that all those views and perspectives need to come
together into one strategic plan.
Klekamp said that as time goes on, there will be additional
meetings, each focusing on one of the four pillars. For this
meeting, the focus was going to be on prevention.
She said there would be three components involved;
- Prevent heroin use altogether
- Prevent substance misuse from developing into serious
- Prevent serious harm and death to individuals who are
addicted to heroin.
Klekamp said they would kick off this portion by hearing
from someone who could speak first hand to the pattern of
Joe looks like any young man you might find in any
small, rural, farming community; caucasian, mid-thirties,
not a punk, a hood, a rapper, just a regular Joe. He grew up
in a small, rural community. He said he came from a good
family. He noted that like any family, there were ups and
down, but there was never any abuse or traumatic events that
led to his addiction. As a youngster, he did not get in with
a “bad crowd.” But at the age of 13, he began experimenting
with drug and alcohol use.
Joe said that in high school, “pot and booze” was the small
town “normal.” As a teenager, he wanted to feel “cool” and
“needed acceptance” from his peers. So he started with
alcohol and pot but then worked his way into painkillers.
Through his young life, Joe said he always had this feeling
of want. He wanted to be needed; he wanted to be important
to his family and others. He said he felt a certain kind of
emptiness that could not be satisfied. Even his drug and
alcohol experiences weren’t giving him the gratification he
Then, at age 26 he tried heroin. Joe said the drug instantly
took hold of him. It gave him the feeling he was looking
for, and when he was high, he felt good. And he was hooked.
Soon after that first heroin experience, he got another new
experience; prison. His first stay was one-year. Joe said
when he was released, he was back on his drug within 72
hours. Thus began a cycle. Between 2003 and 2012 he was
imprisoned five times.
Joe said he was living on a rollercoaster, he knew it was
wrong, he knew he wanted to get rid of his habit, but the
drug called to him. "It was always calling, saying, ‘I’m
always here.’” He said that traditional therapy and
treatment didn’t work for him. He went through the motions
but always went back to his drug.
He said he lost count of the number of times he
overdosed. He lost friends, twelve to be exact, that died of
overdoses. He stole to support his habit. He stole from his
family, he stole from his friends. In 2013, desperate to
escape his cycle, he attempted suicide.
Joe went on to say that once he was tagged as an addict,
society looked at him differently, and the support to quit
wasn’t necessarily there. He said that he was labeled, and
it seemed his destiny was set; he had no alternative than to
continue being what he was, an addict.
He said people in his community looked down on him, “when
your community shuns you, you’re like screw it,” and he
returned to his habit. There was also paranoia in play. Joe
said he imagined what people were saying about him, was
suspicious of how they looked at him, and it all added up to
the only good thing he had was his drug.
[to top of second column]
What is notable now, is that for the last six months, Joe has been
drug-free. Like an alcoholic, he will always be an addict - in
recovery. But one day at a time, he is learning to live without
heroin, and it is changing his perspective on life. He noted that
the paranoia he experienced as a user is now diminishing. He doesn’t
imagine that people see him in a negative way. At the same time, he
said he never goes a day without his drug calling to him, trying to
get him to come back, but this time, he has a better support system
and a different attitude.
When asked how and why he gave a good deal of credit to Kim Turner
of the Logan County Probation office. He said when he met her the
first time he told her flat out, “you cannot keep me clean.” He said
he knew it wasn’t going to work, but soon learned that it wasn’t her
job to keep him clean; he had to come to the realization that he
wanted to stay clean and that there were people who would help him
reach that goal.
Though he had gone through treatments and therapies in the past, he
said, this time, it was different. He said the help he got came with
a different attitude toward him. He said he felt like he “was not
just another brick in the wall.”
Joe was also asked what society could have done differently to
prevent his addiction, how anyone could have helped him avoid drugs.
He said he didn’t really know that anyone could have. But at the
same time, he said where he grew up, success was all about sports
and the kids who weren’t into sports had no alternate activities. He
said communities need more diversity for kids, things they can get
involved in and become a part that doesn't lead to addiction.
He also said after that first time in prison, he was marked by
society. He said that his addiction was his fault, he knew that. But
once out of prison, he felt that people were saying, “Now we have to
deal with you when we really don’t like you and we really don’t
After Joe finished speaking Klekamp returned to the front of the
room. Choosing Lincoln Mayor Marty Neitzel and New
Holland-Middletown School Superintendent Todd Dugan as the subjects,
she told the following story.
“A river flowed closely by a village, two fishermen; Marty and Todd
were fishing on the river when they saw a man in the water. He was
struggling to stay afloat, so Todd drops his pole, jumps in, and
pulls the man out of the water. Marty gets help for the man, and
they go back to fishing.
“Pretty soon they look up river again to see a woman in the water.
She was struggling too, so once again Todd drops his pole and pulls
her out of the water. Marty gets the woman help.
“They return to fishing when they look up the river and see a whole
group of people in the water. Once again Todd jumps in to start
hauling people out of the water. Marty starts walking away, up the
river. Todd calls out to Marty to help pull these people out. Marty
responds she’s going up the river to find out why all of the people
are ending up in the water.”
The moral of the story, helping people after the fact is not going
to solve the problem. We have to find out why the problem exists.
Klekamp explained that heroin addiction is a process. One doesn’t
just wake up one morning and decide to start doing drugs. She went
on to present a Logan County statistic from a 2012 survey of junior
high and high schools students.
In the survey of local eighth-graders, seven percent said they began
drinking at age 13. Nine percent said that by age 13 they were also
smoking marijuana. The same questions were posed to the 12th grade
students that same year. Only 1 percent said they began drinking at
age 13, and only 5 percent said they were smoking pot at that age.
Klekamp asked if anyone could explain why the statistics dropped for
the 12th-graders. One of the school officials in the room answered
instantly “drop-outs.” Klekamp said that was correct. The majority
of young people who start doing drugs at ages 12 and 13 (8th grade
level) will not stay in school through the 12th grade.
Because of this, the goal has to be to start teaching prevention
before children reach the point of experimenting with drugs and
The balance of the meeting was devoted to a break-out session.
Attendees were divided into groups and given three questions to
answer that would begin outlining what this community has in place
to prevent drug addiction and what it needs, or could be doing
The break-out discussions will be covered in part two.