Hundreds of yard signs have been placed across Marion that read “Heroin Is Marion’s Economy.”
Marion officials are not happy about the signs, but said they understand the concerns.
Marion Police Major Jay McDonald compares the influx of heroin into Ohio cities to the plague of crack cocaine in the 1980s.
“I think heroin leads to more theft, it leads to more burglaries, it leads to more incarceration; because they have to continually feed the habit, because they don't want to get sick," said McDonald.
He said in Marion alone, there were 16 heroin-related deaths last year.
McDonald and Mayor Scott Schertzer said they are not new to the fight against the drug, the public outcry at a meeting Monday night did get their attention.
“It's something I want to address. So that's why I called the clergy together and law enforcement together,” said Schertzer.
Schertzer said Wednesday’s meeting produced ideas, including a resource guide for those in need of help and a program to connect addicts with support from churches.
"Many times these addicts have burned all the bridges in their life. Many times their families are not there for them to give them the support they need in the recovery process,” said Schertzer.
McDonald said the hurdles to tackling heroin in Marion are great.
“We need more police resources. We need to have more treatment. We need to have more education, and we need to have better sentencing,” added McDonald.
Officials said that deep cuts the state has made in funding local governments is also a challenge.
“All those things were affected by the slashing and gutting of local government funds, and those chickens are coming home to roost," said McDonald. "And now is the time to talk about it, while they're debating a new budget, that the decisions made in Columbus have real everyday impact on places like Marion."
City leaders add that any progress will take a true community effort.
The yard signs may have sparked talk, but city officials said the people who posted them need to follow through with action.
Marion's police chief and mayor also signed letters of support to a grant application to establish a felony drug court in Marion County.
The program favors rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration.
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