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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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The Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce is donating $250 to help two recovering drug addicts in their effort to help others.

Bill Kegerize, chamber president, said the donation will go to Solomon Lutheran Church in Woodville where Nate Kehlmeier and Erika Warren hold sessions for addicts and their families dealing with drug abuse.

Their program, called Families Recover Too, is offered Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.

Kegerize said the donation will cover costs for renting a room at the church for a year.

The chamber also recently sponsored a panel discussion called, Save A Life, attended by about 90 persons at Genoa High School. Warren and Kehlmeier, from the Woodville and Genoa areas respectively, gave personal accounts of their struggles to overcome addiction and Ottawa County officials outlined what is being done to address the problem.

Dr. Daniel Cardigan, the county coroner, completed his presentation by reading a list of the 12 or so people who died in the county of overdoses during the past year. The crowd was silent as he read the initials, age, gender and what drugs were found in those who died. Several had more than one drug in their systems.

“It really can be anybody you know,” he said, adding that one woman had been active in her school’s 4-H program

And a drug sale can be done anywhere. Joel Barton, a member of the Ottawa County Drug Task Force, told of an undercover cocaine transaction he conducted in the restroom of a fast-food restaurant in Genoa while a third party was in the next stall.

“The bad guy had a gun, nobody else knew what was going on,” he said.

Nationally, the addiction problem stems largely from the over prescription of drugs such as Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, he said,

“Where are they going to go from there? They need opiates to function and people trend to heroin,” Barton said.

The going price of one gram of heroin, about the size of a Sweet ‘N Low sweetener packet, ranges around $300 and many addicts in the county make the trip to Toledo to make the purchase, he said.

That’s where Erika Warren, who’s been recovering since 2013, spent much of her time buying drugs after becoming addicted.

“I couldn’t hold a job for more than 30 days because I would steal,” she told the crowd. Three episodes in particular stand out in her memory: The day her father finally followed through on his threats to call the Woodville Police Department; an officer of the department stating in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court that she was a ‘threat to the community” and Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Ruth Ann Franks calling her a “monster.”

Nate Kehlmeier said he’s been sober since Jan. 13, 2008. When he was 21 he dislocated his ankle while playing basketball and began taking pain pills. The path from Oxycontin to heroin took only a year or so, he said. “Mind you, I was from the small town of Genoa.”

“Everybody stops using heroin. Either on their terms or the heroin’s terms,” he said, urging those attending to reach out to anyone they know who is struggling with addiction. “Tell them you’re not there to judge them.”

Sheriff Stephen Levorchick said his deputies have been carrying Narcan with them while on patrol for about three years. It blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose.

So far in 2016, they’ve recorded six saves. One person was saved twice within three days.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this,” the sheriff said.

County prosecutor Mark Mulligan and James VanEerten, the county’s drug court administrator, explained how the court system is becoming more focused on treatment programs rather than incarceration for addicts who seek treatment.

Kegerize credited Mark Stahl, a county commissioner, for making the chamber of commerce aware of the county’s resources enlisted to combat the problem.

The consensus of the officials who attended the forum is that addiction should be viewed as a disease.

 

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