Buckeye State Rallies to Fight Heroin

HAMILTON, Ohio – Rachel Snelbaker fought the lonely battle against her daughter’s heroin abuse for years, trying to get her into treatment and trying to track her down when she went missing to use drugs.

It ended suddenly and sadly when the 21-year-old died after a heroin overdose four months ago.

“Nobody wants to think that it’s going to be their child,” Snelbaker said. “That day, everything changed in my life forever.”

Now, working alongside others whose lives have been torn apart by heroin, she’s fighting back against the scourge.

Multiple efforts are underway in southwest Ohio’s Butler County, where Snelbaker lives and where this year’s heroin-related deaths are already running at a pace far ahead of last year’s alarming 55 dead.

Some are modeled after anti-heroin campaigns mounted in other states, with town halls, Facebook pages, and poster-waving rallies with simple messages such as: “Honk If You Hate Heroin!”

One recent night, Snelbaker joined Tammie Norris, whose daughter just emerged from drug treatment incarceration, at a meeting of the Butler County Opiate Abuse Task Force, a loosely knit group of dozens of social services officials, addiction experts, educators, parents of addicts and other community activists that started meeting late last year.

“I think everybody recognizes that the problem is bigger than what we thought it was,” said Susan Cross Lipnickey, an attorney and a Miami University associate professor leading the sessions. “It is a 360-degree problem. It is impacting everybody.”

Lipnickey set up participant teams to strategize, including educational door hangars, lobbying lawmakers, and organizing school and community forums.

“We can’t change the world overnight, but we can begin to make incremental changes,” said Lipnickey, who said the local effort in this community about 25 miles north of Cincinnati can follow approaches used in northern Kentucky.