September 1, 2014

Medina
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Lodi residents gather to seek answers to drug problem

After an Ashland youth was found unconscious from a heroin overdose in a car on River Street in Lodi on Jan. 31, a frustrated village Police Chief Keith Keough took to Facebook to appeal for help.

“If you are the parent of an addict, let’s enact a little tough love on them instead of enabling them to get worse,” Keough wrote. “I realize we will not arrest away the problem, but what’s the alternative?”

Lenny Hrovat, of Alternative Paths Medina, left, speaks Wednesday to residents about Lodi's drug problem at the Lodi American Legion Hall. Taking part in a panel discussion were Deb Bican, the district prevention coordinator for Cloverleaf Schools’ District Community Prevention Coalition; Medina County Drug Task Force Director Gary Hubbard; residents Rebecca Watts and Chad Eaden; and Lodi Police Chief Keith Keough.  (GAZETTE PHOTO BY DAN POMPILI)

Lenny Hrovat, of Alternative Paths Medina, left, speaks Wednesday to residents about Lodi’s drug problem at the Lodi American Legion Hall. Taking part in a panel discussion were Deb Bican, the district prevention coordinator for Cloverleaf Schools’ District Community Prevention Coalition; Medina County Drug Task Force Director Gary Hubbard; residents Rebecca Watts and Chad Eaden; and Lodi Police Chief Keith Keough. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY DAN POMPILI)

The Facebook post received so much reaction that more than 25 residents got together Wednesday at the Lodi American Legion Hall, 120 Bank St., to search for answers.

“The drug culture in Lodi was going on long before I got here,” Keough told the audience. “I think I’ll be gone a long time before this town is known for anything other than its drug problem.”

He said the problem really became apparent three years ago when a 15-year-old Lodi girl died of an overdose in Homer Township.

More recent events like the overdose of a Lodi girl in West Salem only keep the problem fresh in residents’ minds.
Keough said he has been at a loss to solve the problem.

A panel of experts Wednesday included Deb Bican, the district prevention coordinator for Cloverleaf Schools’ District Community Prevention Coalition; Medina County Drug Task Force Director Gary Hubbard; and Lenny Hrovat of Alternative Paths Medina, as well as Keough and two residents.

The greatest concern residents expressed was the lack of readily accessible treatment programs for addicts.

Hubbard and Hrovat said residents need to demand that county and state officials to loosen the purse strings on taxpayer money allocated for drug abuse intervention to fund more treatment centers.

Officials also criticized the prison and judicial system for slapping dealers on the wrist with probation to keep prisons free for more violent offenders.

“I believe in treatment and education for some people but not for all of them,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard said the county had 20 drug deaths in 2013 and since 2008 the county and state have had more deaths from drugs than car crashes.

He said law enforcement is making some difference, because the threat of being caught with drugs in Medina County is higher than in surrounding areas, which has driven up the price of drugs.

But residents and officials agree addicts will find a way to get their fix and law enforcement cannot solve the problem entirely.

Many in attendance signed up to be part of a specialized subgroup of the Cloverleaf Community Prevention Coalition that would focus specifically on Lodi.

Members will undergo training and hold workshops to learn more about drug abuse and work with local officials to prevent and treat drug use.

Chad Eader, one of the members of Wednesday’s panel and one of the meeting’s organizers, volunteered to chair the new committee.

Eader himself is a recovering addict, six years clean from painkillers.

“I recovered from it and I’m lucky, I’m still alive, and I try to do things to help solve the problem,” he said.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.