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Hamilton County Launches Heroin Coalition Plan

Bill Rinehart

Hamilton County's Heroin Task Force has released a strategic plan to address the drug epidemic in the region. 

Commission President Greg Hartmann says coalition members will work on several fronts including interdiction, treatment, and prevention. 

“We’re going to keep at this until we find the right mix of solutions.  Our success will be measured in part, if we can see a reduction in overdoses, and/or deaths, a reduction in drug-related crimes, and a reduction in the number of local youths abusing drugs.”

The plan includes a resource website for the public, shared resources among law enforcement agencies, and greater access to treatment for addicts.

“The idea that we can talk about addiction as being a health issue, not a moral failing,” says Jim Schwab, president and CEO of Interact for Health. “(It) is a real important part of the overall effort because it applies not only to drug addictions but alcohol and other things.”

Schwab says heroin is a regional problem and should be addressed as such. 

Hartmann says heroin won't disappear overnight and solving the associated problems won't be cheap.

Among the costs identified:

  • $150,000 for countywide law enforcement access to Narcan, an antidote to overdoses.
  • $50,000 for brochures and resource cards given to overdose survivors.
  • $50,000 to expand a pilot program to combat blood-borne pathogens spread through the sharing of needles.
  • $5.62 million to provide detox treatment for 700 people.

“I think the science is clear that medically-assisted treatment is where we’ve got to go.  Medically-assisted treatment is expensive," Hartmann says. "This plan to get treatment services to over 700 more (people) affected by this heroin epidemic, I think is critical." 
Commissioner Todd Portune agrees combating heroin will be expensive, but worth it.

“If we do what we need to do here, in attacking heroin abuse, we’re also going to improve outcomes across the board, in a variety of other disciplines, in attacking a variety of other problems,” Portune says. “So that the overall benefit to the county is going to be far greater than just simply curbing… the problem of heroin addiction and abuse.”

Commissioners expect to receive regular updates from Coalition members.