“We’re coming to Portsmouth because there’s a need,” said Rosalie Canfield, head of a charitable organization known as Hope Over Heroin, which brings its message of recovery from addiction to Spartan Stadium beginning tonight at 5:30 p.m. and continuing 7 p.m. Saturday.
In late May, Canfield said her group hopes to attract several thousand people to the two-day event, which will feature music and entertainment but most importantly aims at offering those struggling with addiction a way out.
Headquartered in Wadsworth, a southern suburb of Cleveland, Hope Over Heroin launched in 2015 and they have been taking their show, and probably more importantly, their message, on the road across the country, from North Carolina to Pennsylvania to a Native American reservation in South Dakota.
Hope Over Heroin began in Cincinnati, the vision of three pastors who Canfield said were inspired to act after presiding over the funerals of 14 addicts in one week. Some 10,000 people attended the first event three years ago.
Canfield described her group as a non-denominational, faith-based organization. The first night of the event in Portsmouth starts with a prayer march/memorial. Canfield said participants will march out from Spartan Stadium with the help of local police in a show of brotherhood and solidarity. They will then return to the stadium for a memorial service for those lost to addiction.
Pictures of those who succumbed to addiction (and possibly their families) will be displayed on large screens set up around the stadium.
Hope Over Heroin began holding local organizational meetings in late spring or early summer, many at Portsmouth’s Cornerstone United Methodist Church.
As most know by now, for whatever reason, Portsmouth and Scioto County are hot spots for heroin and opiate addiction, which is why Canfield’s organization decided to come here. The following are just a handful of facts and figures regarding the local, continuing epidemic. Some good news might be that between 2010 and 2016 local deaths by opioid overdose plummeted by 60 percent.
There is, unfortunately, a flip side. Over the same time-period, overdoses by other types of drugs, especially fentanyl, skyrocketed by over 1,300 percent. Deaths from heroin, benzodiazepines and cocaine also increased dramatically in what has been described as an unintended consequence of Ohio’s crackdown on prescription painkillers.
The above numbers were supplied by Lisa Roberts, a public health nurse for the Portsmouth City Health Department. She was one of several presenters at a Scioto County Medical Association conference on addiction-related issues held in April. As she talked in her office during an interview for the Daily Times on a local Narcan project she helped organize, Roberts had a very telling graphic displayed on her computer screen. The graphic stated Ohio is number one of all 50 states in the number of fatal drug overdoses.
Probably surprising to no one, while the state numbers are scary, the statistics are not any more encouraging at the local level. In the years 2011- 2016, Scioto County suffered 148 unintentional drug overdoses, what was called a crude rate of 31.8 percent. Those numbers gave Scioto the dubious distinction of having the eighth worst OD rate of all 88 Ohio counties. The Narcan program is just one of several Roberts and other local officials have put together in response to all the negative numbers.
One bit of bright news Robert has shared on a couple of occasions is decreases in the abuse of prescription drugs by local juveniles. For example, among twelfth grade students in the years 2013- 2014, the rate of abuse was given as 7.4 percent. The years 2015-2016, that same figure was 4.5 percent.
Regarding Hope Over Heroin, while the message is serious, and the help offered is intended to be real, organizers also seem to want attendees to enjoy themselves. The first evening features live music, motorcycle stunt demonstrations and, returning to the more serious aspects of the event, testimonials from addicts and recovered addicts. Some of the latter will be videotaped while participants also will have the chance to speak live.
Perhaps most importantly, what Canfield calls the City of Resources will be up and running this evening. As you might expect, the “city” consists of tents and booths filled with resources and information regarding recovery from addiction. Canfield noted numerous local organizations signed up to take part.
“(Addicts) will be able to get the help they need,” she added, noting Hope Over Heroin will follow any needed protocols. Canfield said they will have the resources to send those who need it directly to the hospital. Hope Over Heroin plans to set up a safe house for up to 36 persons to stay overnight if needed and then continue to treatment centers the next day.
Musical acts booked for the event are Decyfer Down and Relentless Flood. Motorcycle demonstrations both nights will be provided by Ride 4 Life, a stunt group Canfield said is led by a former addict.
For more information, go online to http://hopeoverheroin.com/portsmouth-oh.