Rather than ignore the presence of meth, heroin and the like, local health and law enforcement officials along with community activists seeking safer neighborhoods discussed the drug epidemic Tuesday at the Sandusky State Theatre.
The Sandusky Crime Prevention Council sponsored the forum, coined Clear Vision, in hopes of making neighborhoods safer while curbing drug use.
Among the main messages preached by almost all panelists: Ask for help.
Each expert urged people who use illegal drugs — or those who know someone suffering from an addiction — to reach out and contact local agencies for help. Here area some highlights from speakers at the two-hour presentation:
• “It is much easier to change ourselves than to change the world, and it is with ourselves we must begin with. Take this opportunity to help and building a stronger, more vibrant and all-inclusive harmonious community by being active in living in the solution rather than living in the problem.”
— Joey Supina, Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center executive director; 419-621-9377
• “The struggle we always have, and the thing we continue to try to do, is to get others involved in the treatment. “We want family members and parents involved and supporting people as they go through the program. It’s not just about bringing them in for group and picking them up.” “But it’s talking to us and letting us know what’s going on, being an active part of that process.
— Karen Russell, Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services in Erie and Ottawa Counties site director; 800-242-5393
• “You got to get informed. You have to got to accept that we have these issues in the community, and we have to deal with them. (Judges) react to what’s brought to us. It’s more effective to intervene before you get to the judges who hold the keys to prison. We need to make an effort as a community to use every resource we have before using the criminal justice system.”
— Judge Robert DeLamatre, Erie County Common Pleas Court; 419-627-7782
• “The biggest thing we get complaints about is heroin, and meth is on the way. I need you to keep me informed. We have different avenues that if you don’t want to say it publicly you can do it anonymously by the drug tip hotline (419-627-5980) or email (drugtips@ ci.sandusky.oh.us ). This problem is growing, and its growing quickly.
— Detective Lester Peters, Sandusky police
“I believe that people were not created to be locked up behind bars. (They were) created with certain talents and abilities unique to only them and to use it to be a blessing to your friends, family and community. But substance abuse doesn’t let them be the person they were meant to be.
“They are living in a prison without bars. If you live a sober life, you can hold your head up high, knowing you accomplished something.
— Judge Roger Binette, Erie County Common Pleas Court; 419-627-7732
“If you have a serious and persistent mental illness, the chances of you self-treating it with some medication is very high. If you start doing that, then you can become addicted to those opiates and pills.”
— Kirk Halliday, Mental Health and Recovery Board of Erie and Ottawa Counties executive director; 419-627-1908
“Marijuana is a gateway drug. It starts out with innocent kids thinking it’s no big deal. Parents might use it recreationally. But it’s the gateway to stronger and riskier drugs. Marijuana use has increased from (about) 4 percent of adults using marijuana in 2004 to 11 percent in 2011.
— Sharon Schaeffer, Erie County Health Department community health director; 419-626-5623 ext. 185