Formed almost a year ago in response to the Greater Cincinnati and Clermont County’s heroin epidemic, River Rats on Attack and the Clermont County Opiate Task Force met with the New Richmond Council on August 26, 2014 to outline how they are tackling the rising heroin problem.
The Clermont County Opiate Task Force consists of a select group of law enforcement officers, as well as elected officials and individuals in the health care, public health, and recovery fields. According to Michelle Lydenberg of the Clermont County Public Health District and a task force member, “Our main goals are to reduce the supply, increase advocacy, increase treatment, prevent use and reduce harm.”
A large portion of the meeting was spent discussing how to make addicts aware that there are affordable substance abuse treatment programs for those who have a desire to quit using. Associate Director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board, Lee Ann Watson, said the task force wanted to make certain county residents were aware that there are publicly funded programs for addicts without private insurance, Medicaid, or the ability to pay for services on their own.
Ramona Carr, the New Richmond Mayor, brought to the task force’s attention that many of the individuals with a substance abuse problem had difficulty obtaining the transportation needed to attend treatment regularly. Watson replied that they would try to address this need, as well as any others the community may have.
River Rats on Attack is comprised of local citizens who banded together to support the local police department’s fight against heroin. With a lofty goal of helping heroin addicts get affordable substance abuse treatment and determining the best ways to put drug traffickers out of business, the River Rats will not place themselves in dangerous situations in order to spread their message.
Shirlene Martin, a leader of the River Rats, reported that the group currently had more than 150 members. She also reported that they have met with representatives of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office on two different occasions to discuss ways they can provide the police department with the support they need to fight the heroin epidemic. In addition, she reported that she has had drug addicts approach her in order to learn about their treatment options. Finally, she stated the group had plans to take part in National Drug Awareness Red Ribbon Week activities, though no specific plans were reported.
To make the public aware of the task force’s mission, as well as to discuss individual community concerns, a series of town hall meetings are scheduled to be held toward the end of September.
With members of both the task force and the River Rats intent on fighting the area’s ongoing battle with heroin abuse, the local police departments have the support they need to be successful.