The heroin epidemic continues to ravage Northeast Ohio hitting small and large communities alike but one former addict is now doing his part to fight back and he’s trying to convince local governments to get on board.
Richie Webber broke his arm on the football field at Clyde high school leading to a prescription painkiller addiction and eventually into a head-on collision with heroin. Webber’s addiction also resulted in several stints behind bars.
“My rehab was always going to jail but unfortunately in jail, there aren’t a lot of programs to help you stay clean,” said Webber. “That’s why we have an 80 to 90 percent recidivism rate for people who have substance abuse problems, they go back out and use again.”
Now three years removed from treatment, Webber has formed Fight for Recovery, a non-profit aimed at helping those battling addictions get the help they need.
He is also gaining support with thousands of signatures with an online petition looking to convince local governments to commit half the money they seize from police drug raids to drug recovery centers and programs.
“We start on the local level and eventually we can get to the state and federal level and that’s where you see millions and millions of dollars seized where we could build rehabs and build more facilities where people could go to get the help they need,” added Webber.
Webber will soon head to Norwalk to present his ideas to the city council and members of the police department, who see the effects of the epidemic first hand. Interim Norwalk Police Chief Mike Conney says of Norwalk, it would be a matter of determining how many seized dollars are available for use and making sure drug enforcement initiatives would still be funded.
“It sounds like a good idea,” said Conney. “Anything that helps us in dealing with the drug problem we’re open to listening to and exploring if it’s viable.”
For now exploring the idea is enough for Webber but he knows first hand those in the grips of drug abuse are always on the clock.
“What we’re doing isn’t working and we need to find something more, we need to find ways to get people into rehab and to find funds to do so.”
Webber is also in talks with Akron and is planning on presenting his plan to city council there within the next month.