Winning War Against Heroin

A Tuesday discussion of the heroin epidemic in Jefferson County made it clear the only solution is a kind of total war against the enemy.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine touched on the challenge when he told a crowd in Steubenville that “we cannot arrest our way out of the heroin problem.” At the same time, we cannot treat our way out of it. We cannot rely on community mobilization, either.

All three tactics – law enforcement, helping addicts recover and enlisting neighborhoods and communities in the fight – will have to be employed. Further, they will have to be coordinated closely.

Failure in any one of the three components will doom the campaign against heroin abuse in Jefferson County.

Consider what would happen if:

  • Every time an out-of-town heroin dealer showed up in Steubenville, someone tipped off the police.
  • Local law enforcement agencies had the resources, perhaps with state and federal assistance, to follow up on every tip.
  • Friends, relatives and co-workers urged and, if necessary, badgered every drug addict in the county to get help.
  • Effective, affordable addiction treatment was available to all who sought it.
  • Drug dealers were made to understand – without vigilante actions – the community will not tolerate them.

As one Steubenville resident told DeWine on Tuesday, it will be up to local residents and officials to pursue the war against heroin. “When you leave here, it will be up to (Prosecuting Attorney) Jane Hanlin and these guys here in this room to defend the city. You will leave here and we are still here,” he reminded DeWine.

He is right about that.

At the same time, state and federal assistance is essential. More needs to be done to arrest Chicago-based drug dealers in Chicago. Funding is needed to step up addiction treatment efforts. Additional law enforcement personnel would help.

All this seems obvious. Two other things also are clear, however:

If it all happens, Jefferson County will take a huge step toward ending the heroin epidemic.

But if the pieces do not all fall into place …