In the Toledo area, approximately 10,000 people are addicted to heroin and other opioids, according to Team Recovery 419.
To combat these numbers and raise awareness about the issue, Team Recovery 419 hosted their annual Ohio vs. Heroin Rally on Sunday, Feb. 21.
Matt Bell helped found Team Recovery in 2015 while dealing with his own addiction.
“Team Recovery was started after we got into recovery. We wanted to help other people and point them in the right direction and help the family members because we’ve been through it and know how it feels,” Bell said.
The annual rally’s purpose is to destigmatize the issue of addiction and talk about the issue openly. The rally of a couple hundred met at 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the Zepf Center Recovery House and marched down Collingwood Boulevard toward Monroe Street.
During the event, supporters made signs that said, “Ohio Vs. Heroin,” “There is no such thing as ‘just once,’” “Heroin sucks” and “Pugs over drugs.”
Many rally supporters showed up to support addicts or have been personally affected by drug addiction through family or themselves.
“My sister died November 27, 2010 from a heroin overdose,” said Chrissy Palmer, a Team Recovery volunteer. “I want to break the stigma associated with heroin addicts, I want everyone to know that there is hope, I want them to know that people care and recovery is possible.”
According to Palmer, it is difficult for some to admit that relatives or loved ones are heroin addicts and it is also hard for heroin addicts to come out because they are sometimes viewed as junkies.
“It is important for people to know that [heroin addiction] is huge and a lot of people are being affected by it and to reduce any stigma,” said Tina Kern, Regional Ministry Leader of Celebrate Recovery at Cedar Creek.
Helping people through addiction is about love, not negative stereotypes, according to Kern.
Bell said part of the biggest purpose of Team Recovery is to remove the stereotypes to help addicts get the help that is available.
“We want people to learn about things they can do about heroin, get treatment, information, spread awareness and break the stigma that’s attached to heroin addicts,” Bell said.
Along with the information from the booths, the rally included a panel discussion which offered detailed insight about the heroin addiction. The panel included several prominent city officials from various departments, including the Lucas County Commission and the police and fire departments, among others.
Bell can personally explain the effects of stigma and addiction battling and living through it.
“I was a heroin addict for nine years. I’ve overdosed and have been arrested 13 times, I played baseball for the University of Toledo and that’s how it started,” Bell said. “I tore my rotator cuff while I was on a full-ride scholarship and during my recovery I was prescribed Oxycontin and Percocet. I abused them and got hooked on the pain pills, which is the same thing as heroin and when the pills got too expensive I switched to the deadly drug.”
Bell’s story is not uncommon as to how many addictions begin. According to the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network, after alcohol and marijuana, heroin is rising as the most used illicit drug in Northwest Ohio. Additionally, the drug is reported as one of the most abundant and most easily obtainable drugs.
After nicotine, heroin is one of the most addictive drugs according to the Drug War Facts website. To counter and deal with the rise of heroin abuse in the area, there are many addiction and recovery services available in Northwest Ohio, and many were represented at booths at the Sunday rally.
The Zepf Center’s Substance Abuse Services Inc. is one of the nine locations which provide health services for youth and adults in Lucas County.
Cedar Creek offers their Celebrate Recovery program on Friday nights from 7 – 9 p.m. at all five of their locations. It is a 12-step program that helps hurting people dealing with: addictions, eating disorders, food addictions and adult children of family dysfunction.
Team Recovery hosted the rally, and it also provides services of its own.
This group not only aids those with addictions, but also collects and distributes food donations to those in need.
“We want people to be linked up with all these resources and these booths that we have here and we want the family to know that they need help too and there is family support out there.” Bell said.
If you or anyone you know is facing an addiction and need help please contact Team Recovery 419.