Notes From My Knapsack 4-20-17
Dreams, Hopes, and Nightmares
Next Wednesday, Apr. 26 at the Newark High School auditorium, we are blessed to have the journalist and author Sam Quinones visiting Licking County.
His best known book is one that features Ohio prominently, but doesn't quite mention Licking County. Entitled "Dreamland," his investigation begins and ends in Portsmouth, Ohio, and stops by a number of central Ohio communities, but neither Newark nor Granville make it into his narrative, now some years old.
Part of why a committee of a number of us in this county are working to bring Sam to our area is that we don't want the Land of Legend to make it into some future "Author's Updated Foreword," and that could yet happen.
The scourge of heroin addiction and opiate marketing out of Mexico has brushed past most of us here in Granville and around the county. Not as savagely as that epidemic has struck Portsmouth and Chillicothe and Marion, just work our way due north up Rt. 23, but here a bit to the east of that "mud vein" of prescription abuse cases and cheap black tar heroin for sale, we are starting to see the impact of the marketing and sales expertise that become an unexpected but necessary part of the story Mr. Quinones has to tell.
"Dreamland" in the title of Quinones' book was a pool, a community center. Like many community pools, it ultimately closed in the '80s due to lack of funding, but the site was a memory of where the city came together, for relaxation and exercise and a certain measure of joy. That location, as the economics of the Ohio Valley began to push back against funding or hope or any joy at all, turned from a safe family zone to a place where families were destroyed, as the products sold there from out of Mexico insinuated themselves into the relationships and responsibilities of family members around their county.
In Licking County, a task force of community leaders have met to say "not here." We don't need heroin or prescription opiates to become yet another factor in the breakdown of functional families. We're already up to around 450 children taken from their homes by the county, not because there's any upside at all to the county doing so, but because there are that many parents so lost in drug abuse they can't even maintain basic responsibilities to their own kids.
School officials in districts all across central Ohio, and here in Licking County, are seeing a sharp uptick in the number of grandparents showing up for parent's night programs, as they begin raising grandkids for their adult children who simply can't cope with their addicitions…they may not be legally in their custody (a complication in its own right), but we're hearing about 20-30 per building these days in that situation.
And yes, the opiate epidemic has come to Granville. You can get cheap heroin here just like you can in Columbus, some say more easily. Here in "Brigadoon," we can hide our pain and sorrows a little more efficiently, but the damage is here, and spreading.
So I invite you to come to Newark High School next week, 6:30 pm in the auditorium, and hear from Sam and some of our county leadership, and join in the conversation. It's going to take all of us to find solutions.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him where you've seen opiates doing damage in our area at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.