The Washington C.H. City Council chairperson and vice chair spoke about the heroin epidemic this week and what is being done on a local level to combat what has become a growing crisis.
Council chair Dale Lynch invited city officials, including City Manager Joe Denen and Police Chief Brian Hottinger, to join “Faith and Recovery,” a local committee of citizens committed to confronting the drug problem. “Mrs. (Leah) Foster (council vice chair) and I met with all three Fayette County Commissioners and a representative from Senator Rob Portman’s office on Monday and spoke at length about the drug issue,” Lynch said. “Faith and Recovery is a concerned group of citizens who have a great interest in trying to solve this very serious problem.”
According to Lynch and Foster, there have been 15 deaths from overdoses in Fayette County since Thanksgiving, with seven of those occurring since Christmas.
“This committee is something we started well over a year ago,” said Foster. “It has taken time, but there are a lot of great resources and great people that have joined together to work on this fight. You do have to combat it on the street, at the dealer level, but what I’ve also learned over the years is that if you decrease the demand, then the supply tends to go to another location. Our goal is obviously rehabilitation and helping the city have that opportunity for the people who want and need help. We’re striving and getting closer and closer at each meeting.”
Council member Ted Hawk said his primary focus in 2016 is also to tackle the drug problem head on.
“I would rather have another police officer than fix a pothole or some of the other service projects we do,” said Hawk. “Not that we can neglect all of that, but this drug problem is the most serious thing we have going. It almost drives us to where it ought to be a capital offense for someone who gives people a drug and then they die from it. I don’t think we’ve gotten serious enough about it. The risks for the dealers aren’t big enough. The consequences aren’t enough to stop them from doing it again.”
Also Wednesday, the two newest members of council – Trent Dye and Kendra Redd-Hernandez – were welcomed at the first regular meeting of the year.
“I’m excited to be part of city council,” Dye said. “I look forward to working with everyone over the next four years. Thanks to everybody who helped me during my election process and had faith in me to put me here.”
Dye also acknowledged former council member Steve Jennings, who was in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting. Jennings, along with the 2015 council chairperson Ben Roby, served 12 years on council.
“I’m glad Mr. Jennings is here,” said Dye. “I wanted to personally thank you for your years of dedication to serving this city, and I want to thank Mr. Roby as well.”
Redd-Hernandez also thanked those who supported her throughout her successful campaign to join city council. “I too want to thank everyone who has supported me,” she said. “I’m very, very excited about this year. I’m definitely full of energy.”
At the closing of Wednesday’s meeting, Lynch said that on each meeting agenda this year, there will be a quote or saying included. This week’s quote was from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is – What are you doing for others?”
“Quotes, like anything else, if you just read them, it does nothing,” said Lynch. “If you try to live them, it does a lot. When you read this quote, the first thing I think of is us as city council members and what we’re doing for others….what we’re doing for the people of this community. But I also would like everyone to think about another aspect. I want you to think about doing for each other, on this council. Because we are in a rare position. There are only seven of us and we need to work together. And as chair, that’s what I’m praying for the most as we start 2016. Also, what can we do for the people who work for us in this city, starting with the city manager on down? How can we help them make their jobs better? These are the things I want us thinking about.”
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica.