Column: Heroin overdose in OTR

DSC_9981My column in today’s Post is not about politics or politicians. To some, it might not even be news.

The horrors that go on outside my Over-the-Rhine home windows would be shocking to many, but to me and so many others they either have become or always have been a part of life in this neighborhood. It’s life and I chose to be here, around it. It’s not that I like this stuff – I don’t – but it reminds that life is different for all of us in so many good and bad ways. That’s the part I enjoy being a part of.

Among the historical buildings and cultural institutions, life happens right here, right there and over yonder with hardly anyone noticing except the police, the social workers, the many agencies that help down here.

But 10 feet below me and across Race Street Friday morning laid a woman not moving. Her friend, tripping on heroin, smacking her with a 2-foot long twig and saying incoherent things. She was obviously scared and panicking.

The two park benches next to each other near the 13th & Race streets entrance of the Washington Park – the ones that have at least one person sitting on them (usually it’s full, no room to sit down) from 7 a.m. until at least 10 p.m. every single day of the year – has a bunch of people cackling, talking and carrying on around and on it. No different than just about any other day.

But it gets quiet for a second. One stops and pulls out his cell phone and dials 9-1-1. “Dwayne,” the dispatcher tells me, when I pick up my phone next to me and I make the same call. I did not see him on the phone. He beat my call my a few seconds, the dispatcher tells me.

The dispatcher stays on the phone with me to make sure the sirens we are both now hearing are going to the incident we are talking about and I am calling to report. Too often calls like this – of someone not moving, likely an overdose – come into the city’s dispatch center, high atop “Mount Slushmore” in Price Hill, at the same time about different incidents. Let’s be sure that’s not the case this time, she tells me.

From there the column pretty much picks up the rest of the story. I did not see the woman move at all while she was laying on the ground or in the intervening seconds before the paramedics lifted her up, put her on a stretcher, loaded her into the ambulance or the few minutes after that before they left to take her to the hospital.

I will be checking on her this week and looking to expand upon this article in The Post in coming editions.

Author: Joe Wessels

Joe Wessels is a freelance journalist and photographer. Wessels covers local news events for Thomson Reuters news service and features for About.com's Cincinnati Guide site, plus is the executive director of hyperlocal news site, iRhine.com. He wrote for The Cincinnati Post, covering Cincinnati City Hall and Hamilton County government and wrote a weekly political column, which continued weekly at Cincinnati CityBeat. Previously, he was a reporter for the Cincinnati Business Courier and writes or has written for several publications in Cincinnati and around the country including The Cincinnati Enquirer, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine and the Sacramento News & Review. He is a native of Colerain Township, one of Cincinnati's western suburbs, and now lives in Over-the-Rhine near downtown Cincinnati. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a journalism writing certificate from the University of Cincinnati. He also graduated from Colerain High School, is an avid photographer, news junkie and was once a roller rink disc jockey, and sometimes rides a scooter around town.

2 thoughts on “Column: Heroin overdose in OTR”

  1. To pick up on the last line of your column: We can only help those who want to be helped and are willing to do the work of helping themselves. I have no doubt in my mind about this, after hearing from countless addicts about how every person along the way who tried to “help” them when they were not ready to help themselves only delayed their arrival at rock bottom. As one former addict put it, “If one more person had ‘helped’ me, I would have died. It was only when I was forced to help myself that I was able to turn my life around.”

    It may make people feel virtuous to offer an addict a place to stay, or food, or money, or a coat, but this should not be about how we feel about ourselves. The reality is that sometimes the right thing to do is also the most painful thing to do. Those who put their need to feel good about themselves above the real needs of the addicted are nobody’s heroes but their own.

  2. You can only help those who want to be helped, no doubt. For this person, she wants to talk. I told her to come find me and I’d be ready to listen. That’s the best I can do.

    I agree, though, that so many well-intentioned folks try to help when all they are doing is enabling the addict to continue being an addict. Sometimes it’s even the people they are closest to…

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