Raising Awareness with 'Say No to Heroin' Signs in Bartholomew County
COLUMBUS, Ind. -- A former drug addict is using “say no” signs to raise awareness and help tackle the opioid problem in Bartholomew County.
Drug overdose deaths in Bartholomew County have tripled in the last three years, according to the sheriff’s department and it’s an issue Paul Barker, 28, says he’s far too familiar with.
Barker has been handing out signs from the back of his jeep that say “say no to heroin, say yes to life” and other catchy phrases to get the word out that addiction is no joke and overdoses are a serious problem.
“(To tell people) maybe I shouldn’t be doing this,” said Barker. “Maybe my family is more important. Maybe life is more important than this high. People do care. We care.”
Barker is 2 years clean from addiction and is on a mission in Columbus block by block to raise awareness.
"It's all up and down our streets. It's in all of our community. We need to stop it. We need drug treatment. We need to make sure no one else dies," Columbus resident Chris Rutan said.
In 2015, there were 6 overdose deaths in Bartholomew County. In 2016, that number rose to 12 and climbed to 30 in 2017. There has already been 1 confirmed opioid death in 2018 and 3 other suspected cases.
"We have a baby girl that's 4 years old and she doesn't have her parents," said Teresa McQueen. Her son was 26 years old and he is one of the suspected overdoses. He died last Wednesday. Authorities think his girlfriend overdosed too. That means their child has lost her mother and her father.
"They want help. I've heard it from both of them, 'We don't want to live like this anymore. We need help. We want to be a family. Both of them told us that. We want to be a family," McQueen said while crying.
Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers said the community is like a family, but it will take everyone being involved.
"It's important that the community buys in and works with us just like this gentleman (Barker) has done putting these signs up," Myers said.
You can learn more about the signs by going to the Smokys Trees Facebook page.
(PHOTO: Smokys Trees)