|Photo: Hendrike, Wikimedia Commons|
by PAT LaFLEUR
City Reporter, Fort Thomas Matters
Northern Kentucky leaders are coming together to discuss the growing heroin problem facing communities throughout the region, with a series of town hall meetings intended to boost discussion and awareness and to educate the public on this issue.
Specifically, the town hall meetings will discuss why Northern Kentucky has seen this influx in heroin trafficking, how communities can address the issue, and how to identify a possible addict and seek treatment.
According to recent reports, nearly 20% of last year's deaths from overdose in Kentucky were attributed to heroin, and -- even more eye-opening -- nearly 60% of Kentucky's heroin prosecutions in 2011 occurred in Campbell, Kenton, and Boone counties, even though these three counties only account for 8% of the state's population.
"The meetings allow community members to engage in the conversation by asking questions and voicing their concerns," said Sarah White, organizer of Monday night's meeting in Crestview Hills, to WCPO. "The town hall meetings serve as a platform for local law enforcement, medical professionals, treatment agencies, and coalitions to highlight their efforts."
Northern Kentucky's collaborative approach to awareness and coalition building has gained significant attention throughout the state and even across the Ohio River. Ohio Senator Eric Kearny told NKY.com, "I'm very impressed with the approach that Northern Kentucky has taken: a group from diverse backgrounds working on the issue. There's a lot of promise in that."
Fort Thomas officials have chimed in, as well. During Monday night's City Council meeting, Mayor Mary Brown commented on the heroin issue, saying she's relieved Fort Thomas is seeing fewer cases involving heroin than some neighboring communities, but added that "even one case is one case too many."
Lt. Rich Whitford of the FTPD agreed at Monday night's meeting, but also reinforced the connection between Northern Kentucky's heroin issue and the increase in burglaries and break-ins seen throughout Fort Thomas in recent months.
Town hall meetings will convene at the following locations:
- Oct. 23, 7-9 p.m. - Boone Co. Public Library, Main Branch, 1786 Burlington Pike, Burlington
- Oct. 28, 7-9 p.m. - Walton Verona High School, 30 School Road, Walton
- Oct. 29, 7-9 p.m. - Boone Co. Public Library, Scheben Branch, 8899 U.S. 42, Union
- Nov. 7, 7-9 p.m. - First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 1031 Alexandria Pike, Fort Thomas
Two other meetings, one at Boone County High School in Florence and one at Dixie Heights High School in Crestview Hills, took place Monday night.
The town hall meeting at First Christian Church in Fort Thomas will be co-sponsored by NKY Hates Heroin and People Advocating Recovery: Northern Kentucky (NKY PAR). Featured speakers will include Steve Pendery, Campbell Co. Judge Executive; Ashel Kruetzkamp, St. Elizabeth - Fort Thomas ED Nurse Manager; Jason Merrick, NKY PAR; Officer Chris Goshorn, Fort Thomas Police Department; Chris Wulfeck, EMT Fort Thomas Fire Department; Dr. Mark Schweitzer, Campbell Co. Coroner; Darren Smith, NKY Drug Strike Force; Jim Liebetrau, local pharmacist; and Charlotte Wethington, Recovery Advocate.
This town hall meeting is being held in honor of the memory of Nicholas Specht, a Fort Thomas resident who died of a heroin overdose last August. For more information, please see NKYHatesHeroin.com.
For information on the Boone county town hall meetings, contact Sarah White at 859-283-0952.