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Recovering addict responds to heroin problem

CINCINNATI (Rich Jaffe) -- Our stories about the out of control heroin problem in New Richmond generated a quite a response.

In stories you saw only on Local 12, Police Chief Randy Harvey boldly spoke about how his department is overwhelmed with heroin dealing in the village.

After the chief pointed out drug houses to our Rich Jaffe and explained how overloaded the legal system is, the community responded.

A Facebook group called "River Rats on the Attack" has formed and already has 106 members, all promising to help the police combat the issue in the village. And our story provoked other kinds of response too, including suggestions from a recovering addict.

Local 12's Rich Jaffe has her story:

Let's be clear; this is not just a New Richmond problem, but this tiny community and this massive problem are providing us with an extraordinary look inside the issue.

Last week in a startling interview, the police chief told me heroin has become so pervasive in our society that you can no longer arrest and prosecute your way to an answer.

So what is the solution?

Here's one woman's answer:

Jami Conn says she was using heroin for three years. She spent $70 a day on the drug.

"I watched a couple friends pass away from it, and when you are in that addict state of mind you don't think about that. You just don't think about it. You just don't want to be sick; it's the withdrawal a lot of addicts are afraid of," says Conn.

Jami's life took a turn for the better when she got busted.

"Jail saved my life," she says.

Jami says Newport police arrested her when she was shooting up in the parking lot of a Kroger store.

After missing a court date, she got arrested again in Mason and into a treatment program where she found the drug Vivitrol.

"It is a monthly injection; [it] lasts about 28 days, but  blocks all opiate use. You can't use any opiates. You could, but if you did you wouldn't feel any effects from it."

Jami saw our stories last week about heroin problems in New Richmond.

Representatives from the attorney general's office met with concerned residents and business owners Thursday night to search for solutions. Some solutions are being offered by the group "River Rats on Attack."

But it was posts on Local 12 Facebook pages that caught Jami's attention and prompted her to reach out to me on my Local 12 page.

"It was just the comments that struck me. Like everybody was coming down on the addicts when they need to be coming down on the dealers. That really made me mad."

Married with a 5 year old little girl, Jami says if she can beat the addiction anybody can.

"I'm telling you from the point of the addict, it works. Sober six months and I'm doing great. I have my life back because of this Vivitrol shot, because of my therapy, because of what Mason has done for me."

Vivitrol may not be everybody's answer for heroin. It's not widely available right now and it's expensive at $1,200 a shot.

Jami qualified thanks to grant money obtained for the program, but in balance you also have to look at how much heroin is costing all of us.

We should all be proud of people like Jami and Chief Randy Harvey for being willing to come forward and enlighten the rest of us. We wish them both a lot of luck.

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