WASHINGTON C.H. — A roundtable discussion led by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on Monday to address the heroin/opioid addiction crisis was highlighted by a courageous and powerful firsthand account of a local woman’s struggle with heroin addiction.
“I was raised in a good home, so I’d like to point out that (the addiction) doesn’t discriminate,” said Lynn Foster, who described herself as a heroin addict and alcoholic during the compelling discussion among local leaders and public health officials held at the Fayette County Health Department.
“I didn’t start off with any hard drugs, I didn’t even start drinking….the first time I smoked marijuana was when I was 18, so it was later in life for me,” she said. “I really didn’t have any problems at the beginning.”
Foster, the daughter of Washington C.H. City Council vice chair Leah Foster, went on to explain that she began using heroin when she was 22.
“Within a matter of five months, I went from snorting it to using needles and being an IV user,” she said. “I was around friends who had it and they said it was a great high. I was in a party phase of my life.”
Soon after, Lynn was arrested on a drug paraphernalia possession charge during a time period when she was working two jobs and was going to college.
“Then all of that changed after I got arrested,” Lynn said. “I was in jail for 60 days for my first offense ever. Then within a week being out of jail, I went back to the exact same thing. There was not treatment, just detox. I did it three times….detox in jail.”
As the vicious cycle continued for Lynn Foster, she was charged with a felony, and while in court, chose to get help at a treatment center in lieu of going to prison.
“So I was sent off to treatment the January of the following year,” she said. “But before that, for another three, four months…I was still using. I went to jail, I detoxed and then I went to in-house treatment for five-and-a-half months. I got out of treatment June 25, 2014.”
Lynn has been clean and sober for about 27 months.
“During this time, we were thankful when she was thrown in jail,” Leah Foster said of her daughter. “And I say that because if they’re not in jail, then they have the opportunity to use. It took her 40 days to figure out she had an issue. When they go in for weekend treatment, that’s a joke. Weekend treatments are not a treatment center.”
Leah Foster gave credit to Pickaway Area Recovery Services and the drug rehabilitation facility’s executive director Barry Bennett.
“Barry gave (Lynn) the tools,” she said. “They can’t fix you, but they can give you the tools to fix yourself. You have to want to be fixed. But you have to get to that day 40 to even realize that you need to be fixed. That’s why it’s so important to have these treatment centers. Because you are not going to get rid of all of these drug dealers….it’s not going to happen. If the demand is here, the supply will come.”
Because of her daughter’s struggle with addiction and the continuing struggles of countless others, Foster, along with a local group of citizens, created a committee called “Faith and Recovery” to confront this drug problem. “Our goal when we started Faith and Recovery is to help control the demand,” Foster said.
Brown commiserated with the Foster family and other local families struggling with this deadly addiction.
“Once it hits somebody in your family, the whole family is turned upside down,” Brown said. “Roundtables like this frankly help me do my job better because I hear stories, problems and ideas. It helps me understand all of these issues a little better. This problem has really spread all over the nation. I don’t think anybody predicted 10 years ago that it would become this serious and cut across all demographic groups.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than any other year on record. In Ohio alone, drug overdose deaths increased from 2,110 in 2013 to 2,482 in 2014. There were seven confirmed overdose deaths in Fayette County in 2014 and 10 in 2015.
“When it’s easier for Ohioans to access opioids than it is for them to access help to treat their addiction, we have a serious problem,” Brown said. “Opioid addiction is a chronic disease that, when left untreated, places a large burden on our health care system, and on our families.”
Brown outlined legislation he has introduced, which he said represents a comprehensive approach to address the entire spectrum of addiction. He said his bill would help address the opioid epidemic from prevention to recovery, filling in gaps that would help: boost prevention, improve tools for crisis response for those who fall through the cracks, expand access to treatment, and provide support for lifelong recovery.
Although the United States Senate recently passed legislation — the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015 — to help tackle the opioid epidemic, Brown said his bill would help address the issue gaps that remain in addressing this issue.
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica.