Speaker gives personal story about how drugs affect families

Wanda English Burnett

The Ripley County Local Coordinating Council met at the Osgood Town Hall last week for a special presentation concerning the use of heroin among teenagers in Ripley County.

Batesville has seen an increase in the use of heroin, even to the point of losing a teenage girl to heroin use. Two weeks before her tragic death, officials in Batesville met to discuss the problem with over 300 people attending the meeting. The group decided this was a community issue and they would need to come together to educate students to the dangers of heroin use.

Vanessa Hutchinson, a mother of a South Ripley student, was up-front about her son using heroin. People might think it’s another case of a kid with no parental supervision or parental guidance, but that is not the deal.

Hutchinson told that she is one of those parents who is intentionally involved in the lives of her children. On September 8, 2011, she found out about her son’s drug use. She was very upset, but decided her son would kick it. She and her husband sent him to a rehabilitation center only to find out he was “using” the day after he was released from rehab.

The heart-broken mother says she never wants to see other parents go through what she is facing. Her son is still in jail after he wrecked his car in November of 2011. Now, he is 18 and is being treated as an adult in the court system. She is unable to see her son at this time.

According to Hutchinson, there were more boys involved in the drug bust involving her son. She says they are not incarcerated. She tells a sad story of a 26-year-old man who is supplying teens with drugs. Also, there is a drug dealer in Cincinnati who is still trying to contact her son. According to Hutchinson there are several students at South Ripley who are using heroin. And, what is very disturbing to Hutchinson, who is a nurse, they are sharing syringes!"

“Parents need to be educated,” Hutchinson told those gathered at the LCC meeting. She feels she has come up against many concrete walls in this whole process, but wants to get her story out. Lessons she has learned that she wants to share with other parents are: “Talk to your kids. Don’t trust anyone, even your son. Love them every day. Pick their friends. Love hurts.” As a mom, she feels there is no hope of recovery. She fears finding her son dead.

Hutchinson told those gathered that she felt the Ripley County Sheriff’s Office had been a lifeline to her and her family, but wonders why South Ripley School is not more concerned and worried about the increase in heroin use.

Dan Goris, resource officer for South Ripley, was in attendance at the meeting and noted that heroin use is a problem all across the community. He maintained that South Ripley is being proactive by educating faculty and students alike to the dangers of drug abuse.

Hutchinson’s story, according to Goris, “is not falling on deaf ears.”
Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel noted that his office has been working to educate faculty, administration and school board members to the dangers. The prosecutor said he would like to get a 1-800-TIPLINE going in the area but will need a $1000 grant to do so. Sheriff Tom Grills agreed to pay the $1000 to obtain this tipline.
Just what are the dangers of heroin use? How severe is the problem? What should we know?

Heroin, according to information obtained from the prosecutor, is the new adolescent drug. Heroin is a chemically modified form of morphine. The appearance of it can vary, but pure heroin is a white powder. However, some heroin is dark brown and black tar heroin is either sticky or hard and looks like roofing tar. It can be ingested orally, snorted, sniffed, injected, or smoked.

Heroin among teens is on the rise because it costs less than pharmaceuticals on the street and there is huge peer pressure. What are the warning signs that a kid might be using heroin? Truancy, physical health issues such as sedation, depression, confusion, constipation, or slowed breathing, neglected appearance, changes in behavior, and track marks are some of the changes you might notice.
Heroin sedates the central nervous system clouding mental function and making a person feel drowsy for several hours after a dose. The consequences can include disease infection from injection (often from shared syringes), addiction and death from overdose.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, teenagers have easy access to heroin. Twenty-nine percent of high school seniors say it is easy to obtain. Twelve percent of eighth graders even say they can obtain heroin. In 2011 alone, about 91,000 people over the age of 12 used heroin for the first time.

Criminal penalties are in the future for a heroin user. Possession of heroin is a class D felony. It’s also a felony to possess a syringe, deal in heroin or deal heroin within 1,000 feet of a school or a park. Hutchinson, a terrified mom, reminded the group that her son needs $1400 a day to support his habit.

What can we do to make a difference? According to Prosecutor Hertel, we can identify that there really is a problem here in Ripley County with our teens. We can watch for the warning signs. And, everyone should report what they observe. Report it to your local school resource officer, the school administration, and be sure to use the new Ripley County Tipline. That number will be released to the public just as soon as possible.

You can contact the state police at 689-5000 or the sheriff’s office at 689-5558.

Hutchinson stated that while she is proud of Ripley County, she wants law enforcement to remember that there is “a family behind drug addicts so don’t be desensitized to their pain.”

Amy Phillips of the LCC, closed the session by saying it was hard to hear this story, but the coalition and the community need to come together and find out what schools need. This presentation was not just to hear a sad story but more about how concerned citizens can make a difference and save their community.