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Ending an epidemic

Andy Ouriel • May 18, 2014 at 10:08 PM



For about 150 community members, Saturday marked a new day for a brighter future.

Forget Jan. 1. The long-term resolution to save sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, friends and mentors from a poison killing far too many officially kicked off on May 17, 2014, at the gazebo in Washington Park.

Coined Steps of Hope for Recovery Day, people will hopefully look back on this date and realize this was the true start to curb — and ideally eliminate — deaths stemming from heroin and other drug overdoses.

At least it’s the ultimate goal of Vermilion resident Melva Sherwood and Sandusky resident Susan Prentice. The two women both lost sons to drug overdoses within the past two years.   

Both aspire to shield others from experiencing the heartache of losing a loved one that they still feel today.

But they want more.

So the two spearheaded a grassroots effort to:

•Shed light on the lack of available resources in Erie County specifically structured to care for, curb and combat addiction issues.

•Campaign for area institutions, such as hospitals, to ramp up efforts in treating people with addiction issues.

•Direct people to available establishments, including information and referral community centers, where addicts and those who know people struggling with addiction issues can receive help.

•Comfort and encourage people to immediately seek help, whether for themselves or someone they know.

During Saturday’s hourlong ceremony, ending with the 150 or so attendees marching around downtown Sandusky, federal lawmakers, local officials and community members spoke about the overdose problem claiming dozens of lives in Erie County over the past several years:

“Today has been wonderful. Awareness is everything and getting rid of the stigma of addiction is the first step to getting things solved. The more we can talk about addiction and shine a light on it, then the further down the road we can get. We need more treatment. We need access to treatment immediately. We are here to support families to get through this and to help people who are addicted so they can live the life they were supposed to live”

— Susan Prentice, a Sandusky resident who was one of the event’s main organizers. Prentice’s son, Christopher Miller, died from a drug-related overdose about a year ago.

“From Scioto County to Sandusky, gatherings just like this are taking place all across Ohio. Make no mistake that today is the first step in this journey together in this community as we fight this miserable scourge on our state and our country. We’ll stand together with families and friends, and we will not let their memories fade”

— State Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island

“We need to be involved, and we need to get the word out and break the stigma. We need to come together and fight this, no matter what state we’re from”

— Ruth Neal, a Michigan resident whose son has battled with substance-abuse issues for about four years.

“This is going to take an enormous effort, (but) I will do my part at the federal level to bring resources and to try to help you achieve the dreams of those in Erie County who have a better idea of how to handle this. Working together, there is nothing that we can’t accomplish”

— U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo

“We have to come together as a community and work together with our law enforcement and legislators to get things changed so we can help everyone”

— Melva Sherwood, a Vermilion resident who was one of the event’s main organizers. Sherwood’s son, Andrew Weaver, died a little more than a year ago from a heroin overdose.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to take all of us to fight this issue and to work through this issue. Maybe we need stronger laws in Columbus. Maybe we need tougher penalties for drug dealers. But we mostly need the hearts and minds of the people here. We must do all we can to make sure our citizens recover from the tragedy of drug addiction and drug abuse, and that is something I look forward to being a part of in this county and working with those who are already doing that”

— State Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green

“There are four things that you need to initiate recovery: You need to give people hope, you need to give them a purpose, you have to give them a home, and you need to give them a community. Things will change if you give that to them. All these fine people are working within the solution, and I’m glad to be a part of this”

— Joey Supina, director at Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center, which aims to integrate the arts with the mental health community in hopes of helping people cope with their addictions and other mental health issues.

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