Years into the heroin epidemic, after hundreds of deaths, thousands of arrests and millions of tax dollars spent, heroin is winning, says the Cincinnati Enquirer. Attempts to slow the spread of the drug across Ohio and Kentucky have mostly failed. Often, the response has been ineffective. Sometimes, it made matters worse. The social safety net wasn’t built for the heroin epidemic. The system is unwieldy and unfocused, when agility and precision are needed. It is tied to the old ways of doing things, when new approaches might work better.
“We need to hit this from every angle, with every single resource,” says Tom Synan, the Newtown, Oh., police chief who is helping lead a Hamilton County task force on heroin. “That’s the only way we’re going to solve it.” That kind of coordinated attack isn’t happening yet. Jails house thousands of addicts, but they lack the resources to provide effective drug treatment. Most courts still insist on zero-tolerance rules that bounce heroin users from the streets to jail and back again. Long-term treatment remains a crapshoot for addicts and their families, who often can’t find, or can’t afford, quality care. “Our entire approach to this is wrong,” says Dr. Mina “Mike” Kalfas, a Kentucky doctor and addiction expert. “Our approach as a society has failed miserably.”