The staff at The Daily Journal were taken aback slightly in recent days as the company-wide heroin enterprise package was published Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Over a period of only 72 hours, our thoughts and opinions changed. The feedback was eye-opening.
The effort was launched by other Civitas Media companies as early as Sunday and published for three consecutive days. Day one was “Faces of Heroin,” through which reporters from Civitas-owned newspapers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and other locations highlighted the many — too many — losses. Day two focused on the lives of those stung by heroin addition and the third day centered on success stories.
Many here at 105 E. Washington St. wondered why we were directed to participate in the piece. As staff writer Amanda Moss reported in Tuesday’s edition, the issue in Richmond County is not heroin but primarily prescription drug abuse and meth. The local court dockets are jammed with related charges and lives disrupted for both.
In short, heroin isn’t an issue here. Or so we thought.
By far, prescription drug abuse and meth are the drugs of choice for Richmond County residents. That doesn’t mean, though, that families in the area have not been adversely impacted by heroin. While heroin is, for now, an issue in states north and west of North Carolina, not everyone who lives in North Carolina is from here. In other words, they — readers of the Daily Journal, just like you — bring their experiences with them.
For them, and even natives of our area whose lives have been quietly destroyed by heroin, these stories hit home.
We’ve received quite a bit of feedback, some of it startling and supportive and some of it too intimate to share.
“If you haven’t lived it, you don’t understand,” wrote one reader. “Great work.”
Another loyal reader visited the office Thursday morning to share his story of the loss of his 19-year-old daughter, Shelly. Shelly overdosed on heroin eight years ago but, the father admitted, it can seem like yesterday in a heartbeat.
The father pointed us towards the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, which, among other things, successfully lobbied the state General Assembly for the 911 Good Samaritan law. That law offers fellow drug users limited immunity when calling 911 requesting emergency assistance for an overdose.
In Shelly’s case, the friend had been recently paroled and fled the scene for fear of being returned to jail. It’s not known if paramedics, or the overdose counter drug Naloxone, would have helped. But its use might have increased Shelly’s chances of survival if anyone had called 911.
Shelly was smart. Shelly was attractive. She had graduated from the N.C. School of Science and Math and was a sophomore at UNC-Asheville. She wanted to help people. But five days before leaving school for Thanksgiving break in November 2005, Shelly was found dead in her college dorm room.
Let’s try and save the next Shelly. Maybe the information in the stories published this week can help.