Tag Archives: Cincinnati Enquirer

180 Overdoses, 18 Deaths, One Week

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

In July, The Cincinnati Enquirer sent 60 reporters, photographers, and videographers into the community to chronicle an ordinary week during the height of the heroin epidemic in Ohio and Kentucky.

In the interactive feature, “Seven Days of Heroin,” Terry DeMio and Dan Horn piece together a timeline from dozens of videos, transcripts, and field notes. It starts on Monday, July 10, and ends on Sunday, July 16, 2017.

It’s a little after sunrise on the first day of another week, and Cincinnati is waking up again with a heroin problem. So is Covington. And Middletown. And Norwood. And Hamilton. And West Chester Township. And countless other cities and towns across Ohio and Kentucky.

This particular week, July 10 through 16, will turn out to be unexceptional by the dreary standards of what has become the region’s greatest health crisis.

This is normal now, a week like any other. But a terrible week is no less terrible because it is typical. When heroin and synthetic opiates kill one American every 16 minutes, there is little comfort in the routine.

The accounts are harrowing. Vivid, often silent videos punctuate paragraph after paragraph of breathless bodies, emergency dispatches, orphaned children, and death tallies. Loved ones look on as lips turn blue, turn purple. As soon as the reader becomes accustomed to the rhythm of hourly tragedy, each story, like the drug, takes a turn for the worse.

Gaffney, 28, quit cold turkey after learning she was pregnant. She’s living now with the baby at First Step Home, a treatment center in Walnut Hills. They plan to move into an apartment together soon.

After years of addiction, Gaffney’s goals are modest. She wants to raise her child in a normal home. She wants a normal life.

Uebel finishes the examination. “She looks real, real good,” she says.

Gaffney is relieved. She scoops Elliana into her arms and takes her appointment card for her next visit to the clinic in December.

“See you then,” she says.

(Ten days later, Gaffney is dead from a heroin overdose.)

Peter Bhatia, editor and vice president for audience development at the Enquirer and Cincinnati.com, shares why they took on this 7-day project in a postscript:

We undertook this work – spreading our staff throughout courtrooms, jails, treatment facilities, finding addicts on the streets and talking to families who have lost love ones – to put the epidemic in proportion. It is massive. It has a direct or indirect impact on every one of us. It doesn’t discriminate by race, gender, age or economic background. Its insidious spread reaches every neighborhood, every township, every city, regardless of demographics. And it is stressing our health-care systems, hospitals and treatment capacity.

We set out to do this project not to affirm or deny differing views on the cost of battling addiction and its impact. Rather, we set out to understand how it unfolds day in and day out. I believe you will find what we found to be staggering. In the weeks ahead, The Enquirer will build on this effort, devoting more attention to actions our communities can take to make a difference against heroin’s horrible impact.

Hence the title of this ongoing project: “Heroin: Reclaiming Lives.”

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

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Cincinnati Through the Eyes of 14-Year-Olds

What is it like to be 14 years old and living in three of Cincinnati’s roughest neighborhoods? Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Krista Ramsey and photographer Cara Owsley talked to 14 teens to get their perspectives. Here is Jalen Owensby, who has routinely experienced violence in her family:

“My uncle came and picked up my cousin and me at school and took us to the hospital,” the eighth-grader says, remembering back to 2006. “I saw my brother in the room. I went over to hug him, and he didn’t hug me back. And I realized he wasn’t there any more.”

Her 20-year-old brother, Rodney Owensby Turnbow died a day after being shot by an acquaintance. His death came seven years after a cousin, Roger Owensby, died after a struggle with Cincinnati police officers – a death that led up to the 2001 riots. Last summer, another cousin, Justin Owensby, was found shot to death in Westwood.

“To me, it’s a curse, because a lot of my family members are getting killed back to back to back,” she says. “If I got shot and killed, it would be hard on my parents. I’m the only kid in the house and my dad already lost one. I plan on moving to Atlanta. I don’t want to live in Cincinnati because I don’t want to be an innocent female who gets killed.”

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Children Are the 'Forgotten Grievers'

The standard of care for decades for children who had suffered a loss did not help. Thinking it was best, adults urged children to move past their loss as quickly as possible. Mourning was broken.

“Children have always been the forgotten grievers,” said Andy McNiel, executive director of the National Alliance for Grieving Children. “The idea was that they would forget about it. That it was too much for them to handle, that they would be better off if we pretended it didn’t happen. None of that was true. They may stop talking about it, but they are always thinking about it.”

This, McNiel said, could make children withdraw or become angry. They might work through their feelings in unhealthy ways. Then, as adults, they might not trust people. They could become stuck in their grief.

“You hear about it all the time from adults who lost their parents when they were kids,” McNiel said. “It impacted my marriage, it impacted how I raised my kids, it impacted my work. It doesn’t stop.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Faherty looked at grief counselors at an all-boys school who work with teens who have lost loved ones. The counseling has helped the boys process their feelings.

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Photo: Eric Chan