Limited Help: The fight against heroin could be more dangerous in rural areas

Limited Help: The fight against heroin could be more dangerous in rural areas
(Source: WTOL)
(Source: WTOL)
(Source: WTOL)
(Source: WTOL)
(Source: WTOL)
(Source: WTOL)

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Heroin doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care how old you are or how much money you have.

But what about where you live?

In a WTOL 11 special investigation, we took time away from the Toledo metro area to see if the epidemic has branched out to our more rural communities.

We discovered it can be even tougher to win the fight in less populated areas. And in some cases, more dangerous.

Charlie Horne is the police chief of Green Springs, a village in Sandusky and Seneca County of just 1,000 people.

"Our whole community is a great town, but I think the heroin epidemic affects everyone, whether you live in a $500,000 home or you live in a $2,000 shack," Chief Horne said.

He responded to an opiate overdose just after New Year's and used Narcan to save the unresponsive 68-year-old woman's life.

Horne just got a hold of the heroin-reversing medicine in December, much later than the area's urban police departments.

"We have no resources for those things," he said. "Our financial constraints for our department are already to the limits, let alone adding an epidemic of the proportion of heroin or other drugs in our communities."

The lack of resources is dangerous... even for the officers. 

While searching a suspect, officers in a small department like Green Springs could reach a hand into the suspect's pocket and come into contact with deadly narcotics, some of which could quickly seep into their skin.

"When you're working, it's a one man show," Horne said. "If I know that I became exposed to those things, I may have to use that medication to save my own life."

In Ottawa County, the heroin and opiate epidemic is getting worse and forcing people to the table. We were there as Genoa's Mayor, a county commissioner, and a police officer shared information to better understand the crisis.

They were led by Nate Kehlmeier, who co-founded the support group "Families Recover Too." He got hooked on prescription opiates at 21.

"Was introduced to heroin a couple years later," said Kehlmeier. "In and out of jail, was in Sandusky County jail. I was in the Lucas County jail, treatment a few times, detox a few times."

He's now nine years sober and started his group, because resources are harder to find here.

The community members coming together at the table to support his goals are proof that the desire to help is catching on.

"That's the only way it's going to get fixedl; I can't fix it myself," said Kehlmeier. "Nobody can do it by themselves. It has to be a community coming together."

Families Recover Too - Support for families:

  • Meets at Solomon Lutheran Church, Woodville, OH
  • Find on Facebook
  • Contact: Nate Kehlmeier - 419-262-2436

Kenn Bower is helping heroin addicts in Port Clinton, as executive director of Lighthouse Sober Living. He got clean four years ago, something that would not have happened without people coming together to help.

"Oh, I would be dead," said Bower. "Without the support and the people along the way that have helped me to believe in myself. And guide me in certain directions and give me feedback that I didn't always like."

Lighthouse Sober Living - Support for addicts:

Chief Horne will continue to protect the people of Green Springs, determined to overcome the challenges of working with a small town budget.

"I don't think that anyone is immune from the poison that drugs bring to our communities," Horne said.

Rural Heroin Overdose Deaths - 2016: 

  • Defiance County: 3
  • Hancock County: 12
  • Henry County: 7
  • Ottawa County: 10 (including a Fentanyl overdose)
  • Williams County: 3

Most counties have several suspected cases of heroin overdose deaths from late 2016 that are still being tested and determined.

In the western end of Northwest Ohio, heroin has easily passed meth as the drug of choice.

To overcome reduced resources, they created the Multi Area Narcotics Task Force.

The MAN Unit is made up of the Williams, Defiance and Putnam County sheriff's offices and Defiance and Bryan Police. The unit arrested 57-year-old Gregory Hines in 2016 for trafficking heroin.

Prosecutor Katie Zartman got a conviction and was sentenced to six and a half years in jail.

"We're trying to treat this as seriously as we can; Make sure we try to get these people out of Williams County," Zartman said.

Last week, a Williams County Grand Jury indicted 43-year-old Jeremy D. Havens with involuntary manslaughter. He allegedly sold heroin to a person that later died from an overdose.

Havens is accused of selling heroin and Fentanyl to an unidentified person in August 2016. That person later died from an overdose. He faces one count of involuntary manslaughter, one count of trafficking in Heroin and one count of aggravated trafficking.

Havens is being held at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio. His bond was set at $50,000.

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