Thursday, May 23, 2019 Medina 77°


Heroin addiction in Medina County: 'We can't sit back and wait'

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A mother and her daughter, a recovering heroin addict, passed out bracelets and pamphlets Monday night on Medina’s Public Square to spread awareness about addiction.

The daughter, 20, has been sober for about 50 days.

“It’s been a long road,” said the mother, who asked that they remain anonymous.

The daughter had a baby in April, who tested positive for heroin. After the baby was born, the daughter overdosed and spent 44 days in jail.

The baby, now 5 months old, lives with the father, and the daughter lives with her mother in Wadsworth while waiting to get into a treatment facility in Wooster.

“I freaked out when I caught her doing heroin,” the mother said. “Spoons went missing and I started finding needles.”

The mother said her 20-year-old was a good student through high school and traveled all over the state for horse-riding competitions.

“It’s just good to be here with other people who understand,” the mother said.

Theirs was one of many stories shared on Public Square during a drug awareness meeting Monday night that brought more than 100 people to the heart of Medina for a candlelight walk to remember loved ones who have died or are struggling with heroin or opiate addiction.

Three residents, who have experienced the impact of heroin use first-hand, organized the event in the wake of Medina business owners opposing a drug treatment center that was scheduled to open in the city’s historic district. The organizers were Megan Blough, of Medina; Chip Jenkins, of Seville; and Thea Bittinger, of Litchfield Township.

The location of the center, which sparked the controversy, was an initiative of Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services Inc. and was intended to go on the third floor of the Professional Building on West Washington Street.

After businesses complained to county and city officials about the treatment center’s location, the county and LCADA decided to look for other options.

Tim Smith, director of the upcoming Medina branch of LCADA, told the crowd Monday night that LCADA attorneys are looking into another facility in Medina, but nothing is finalized. He said that when it’s open, the new center will have two counseling groups of 12 clients that will meet regularly.

“It’s the fear of the unknown,” Smith said. “If it doesn’t touch your family, it’s a foreign thing.”

Smith said this is not the first time LCADA tried to move into a facility in a community that didn’t want it in its backyard.

“It’s been a slow, kind of awkward entrance into Medina County,” he said. “That’s not a new thing for us. We’ve heard that before.

“If all you know about heroin is what you saw in a movie from the 1970s of people sleeping under bridges and eating out of a garbage can, then you’re probably going to say things like, ‘Well, we don’t want that during the ice sculptures.’ ”

With his wife, Darlene, and family by his side, Dennis Martin, of Medina, spoke during the meeting about the overdose deaths of his stepchildren, Brittnee Johns, 17, and Marc Johns, 23.

“A picture I want to paint for you is when a mother walks by her 17-year-old daughter’s bedroom and she finds her face down, unresponsive,” he said. “The scream I heard from Darlene that morning is a sound that I still have nightmares about.

“Rehabilitation is not for those who are sentenced to it, but for those who want it, and if you want it and you’re a resident of Medina County, it’s not available to you.”

Martin’s sister-in-law, Megan Blough, read a list of nearly 50 names of Medina County residents who have died since 2012 of drug overdoses.

From the gazebo on the square, other parents and recovering addicts shared their stories.

“We can’t sit back and wait,” said Jenkins, who lost his 26-year-old son, Alex, to a heroin overdose in January. “One or two weeks — that could mean lives that we can’t afford to lose.”

A woman who asked to be identified as Karen G., of Brunswick, has been sober for seven years, but now has two sons who struggle with addiction.

“I’ve been in businesses up and down this square and they don’t know I’m an addict,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to go out of the county to get help. Both of my sons have had to lie about their residency to get recovery. But you know what? Whatever it takes because my sons are still alive.”

Greg Crowe, owner of Woodsy’s Music, 110 W. Liberty St., attended the meeting and donated a sound system for the group to use in the gazebo. He said he didn’t share the same opinion as some businesses.

“I didn’t know about the meetings they had,” he said. “I wouldn’t put the business community above everyone else.”

Mead Wilkins, director of Medina County Job and Family Services, also attended.

“You have to put a face on addiction. It’s your next-door neighbors and friends.”

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