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River Rats try to tackle heroin problem

NEW RICHMOND, Ohio (Angenette Levy) -- A group that has dubbed itself "River Rats on Attack" met for the first time Wednesday night to discuss ways to fight the heroin epidemic in the community.

More than 60 people gathered at the bandstand in New Richmond to discuss ways to help addicts and keep heroin dealers away. River Rats on Attack is a group that started on Facebook 12 days ago after two residents saw a Local 12 News story detailing Police Chief Randy Harvey's frustration with tackling the heroin epidemic. Harvey said arresting addicts and dealers and putting them in jail is not solving the problem.

Resident Denise Gilliam has lived in the village her entire life.
 
"I have nephews on drugs and I'm terrified they're going to find them with a needle in their arm. They've got families and little ones," Gilliam said.

Gilliam has seen the impact heroin has had on people in the village. Ambulance calls for heroin overdoses have increased.

"We have had a sharp increase in runs with unresponsive people with possible overdose runs. We have had numerous deaths in the last several years. The majority of them are young people. It's tragic," said Scott Wolf, Executive Asst. Fire Chief.

The group did not come up with any clear solutions Wednesday night but members are determined.

"Our mission is to help the Attorney General or our police department, our mayor, help to put a bite in this. Help to clean up people who want the help, find them affordable help and do fundraisers and things to make this possible," said Shirlene Martin, a co-founder of River Rats on Attack.

Denise Gilliam hopes the group's efforts can save lives and in turn make New Richmond safer for everyone.

"Instead of sitting home saying why doesn't somebody do something, we have to be the somebody who steps up to do something," Gilliam said.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office met with officials in New Richmond earlier this month. The AG's office will return to the village with recommendations on how to best address the heroin epidemic next month.

Follow Angenette Levy on Twitter @angenette5 and LIKE her on Facebook

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