Friday, October 17, 2014

ELECTION 2014: County Commissioner candidates weigh in on heroin epidemic

Candidates for Campbell County Commissioner discussed the region's growing heroin epidemic in a forum Thursday night/Wikipedia

Click for candidates' commentary on regionalism and economic development in Campbell County.

How can Campbell County address the region's growing heroin problem?

"It's an emergency situation," said Tom Lampe, candidate for District 3 County Commissioner, during a forum among candidates Thursday night. He called the region's heroin epidemic his number one priority. Lampe, who currently chairs the Public Safety Committee in Fort Thomas, has touted public safety as his chief lens for looking at the issues.

Lampe was not alone. Half the candidates named heroin as the single biggest issue facing Campbell County today.

Melanie Steidel Pelle, District 2 candidate, voiced her strong commitment to ending the region's heroin problem, explaining to the audience her personal experience with losing a loved one to heroin addiction.

"There will be no one on this stage that will work harder on this issue than I will," she said, calling for a stronger emphasis placed on educating young people on the dangers of addiction, as well as placing a higher priority on treatment programs for first-time offenders, rather than criminal sentences and jail time.

For Pelle, those enforcement methods should be targeted mainly at drug traffickers.

Charlie Coleman, also running in District 2, isn't sure if it's a disease, and doesn't care. "I don't care if it is a disease or it isn't. We need to focus on the solution," he said. "When we attack this problem, everybody needs to have ownership."

Coleman did, though, despite trying to position himself apart from his opponent, offer a similar roster of solutions to Pelle's.

"It is a disease," Pelle fired back, insisting that the solution lies only in recognizing the problem as such.

Both District 1 candidates, Rene Heinrich and Brian Painter, agree that the solution lies in stimulating Campbell County's local economy.

Painter believes the creation of "good, living wage jobs" will "keep young people from sticking a heroin needle in their arm."

"We can't fix the heroin problem without money," Heinrich added, saying that economic development creates jobs and broadens the tax base, which could generate more money for beds at treatment centers and jail cells.

Ultimately, the candidates seemed to agree, the problem is beyond the county's scope to fix completely. "This is bigger than Campbell County," Lampe said, "We need help from Frankfort."

Voters will decide November 4 which three candidates will join the Judge Executive on Campbell County Fiscal Court.

Thursday night's forum was hosted by the Independent Business Association of Northern Kentucky, and was hosted by Mark Collier, editor and publisher of this publication.

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