BELLVILLE — Ohio leads the way in opioid addiction cases, and Bellville is no stranger to the problem, Bellville village council members were told Tuesday night.
Records show there were 55 deaths due to opioid use in 2015, and the system is so shattered that in one area refrigerated trucks have to be used because there are not enough places to put bodies in morgues, Kim Knapp told council members.
Knapp’s daughter Kirstin died due to opioid use, a combination of heroin and fentanyl, she said. Results of her autopsy were just made available.
Knapp appeared at the council meeting along with Bellville Police Chief Ron Willey.
Both Knapp and Willey told council it’s going to take the entire community to beat the epidemic.
Knapp said Kirstin battled her problem for seven years. She said they “left no stone unturned” in seeking counseling and visited “countless recovery centers.”
She said even if a person is on probation an officer will tell a user “I’ll see you in two weeks.” The problem is addicts know how long it takes for a drug to work through their system, so they can quit using in time for their next appointment.
One drug used to treat addiction, suboxone, is given to addicts but many exaggerate their circumstances, and get more than they need. Then they sell it so other addicts, Knapp said.
Suboxone can be used to “take the edge off” when a person is coming down off a drug.
Knapp said the situation around here is so bad she has seen people exchanging drugs at local gas stations. It’s also done in the Walmart parking lot, at the intersection of State Route 13 and I-71, she said.
In the space of a minute or so she has seen 10 cars drive through, exchanging drugs.
Knapp said she knows the name of the dealer and what kind of car he drives but there is “not anything I can do about it.”
When Kirstin died from an overdose, Knapp assembled a box of her belongings, including her cell phone, so it could be taken to Metrich, which works with drug addiction cases in Mansfield. She took the box to the police department, but because that group is “swamped,” the box of belongings didn’t make it to Metrich for 17 days.
Kirstin was receiving food assistance, and had a card. She sold that card to raise money the day she died. She went to get drugs but “as soon as she hit her vein” she was gone, Knapp said. She found her daughter when she came home from work that day at 5 p.m.
Knapp tracked where the card was used, and someone used it at a Kroger store and at Walmart. An officer was able to get a photograph of an older couple with a young child. They were using the card to get items, but the woman had used a credit card so she could be traced. Using a food assistance card in that way is a federal offense, so the woman will be charged, Knapp said.
The medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry share blame in the opioid epidemic, Knapp said.
“Docs throw meds at them,” Knapp said.
She said she knows one pharmaceutical rep who quit his job because of worries about selling drugs.
There is a “huge incentive” for pharmaceutical sales people to do well, because they get “great trips” because of good sales figures, Knapp said.
They go around “all in little suits and everything,” which means they are a “pretty classy drug dealer.”
The Bellville Police Department room where council meets was full with people who had come to hear Knapp. Several had questions.
One person asked why there couldn’t be a detox center in this area. Another suggested perhaps phamplets could be put out to inform everyone.
Knapp said she knows of one town where people put signs in their yards, saying to drug dealers “get out of town.”
People have suggested “tough love” but Knapp said all that does is “smash” a person into the ground.
A person using drugs is already depressed or has other problems.
There is a drug dealer in every neighborhood, Knapp said. She has a friend who “locks up everything” because they are frightened. Their son is “so involved” in drugs, she said.
Law enforcement officials, EMT personnel and even fire department people can be called when there is a call on an opoid case, Knapp said. That means all groups are stretched thin when dealing with opioid problems, she said.
One person asked why users can’t be incarcerated.
Willey said it is time consuming and complicated to find sellers and getting information to Metrich takes adhering to at least 35 requirements for filling out data.
Knapp said it is not only problems with law enforcement regulation but also with “non-profits” which handle counseling. Some are not “non-profit” and there have been cases where persons being treated have been kicked out because of what they say is the necessity to bring in another individual to be treated.
She said Kirstin was at one time being treated five days a week. Then it became four and the number of days steadily went down.
She said it may have to be a “faith based fight” and she has contacted someone in the Richland County Ministerial Alliance.
She said she had “created a place” where she was ready for what happened, but “God picked the day.”