About 30 vendors have signed up for the upcoming Hope Over Heroin event slated for June 16-17 at the Highland County Fairgrounds, and planners are still seeking volunteers and resources.
The faith-based movement seeks to break the chains of addiction and shine a spotlight on the opiate epidemic. Thousands have attended similar events when they have been held in other communities, according to planners.
The event will feature a “city of resources” for drug addicts who want to overcome their addiction, as well as a prayer tent, music, food, children’s activities and speakers, including former heroin addicts.
Heather Gibson, CEO of REACH for Tomorrow and a co-planner of the event, told The Times-Gazette on Thursday that progress is being seen on the event, but more needs to be accomplished.
“I think we’re doing pretty good on booths,” Gibson said. “Of course, we would like to have as many churches as we can get to do the prayer tent, so we’re going to need some pastors, some altar workers, and we’re going to need bath towels, lots of bath towels.”
Gibson said the last request seems like a strange one, but a Hope Over Heroin event held in 2015 in Wilmington saw about 200 people baptized – out of more than 2,000 attendees – and not enough bath towels for drying off afterward.
Gibson said that among the event’s greatest needs are volunteers and resources to help those who want to get into treatment right away, but can’t enter programs until the Monday after the event.
“If we have folks who want treatment at that point, we have some treatment facilities we can get them into on Monday morning, but we have a whole 24 or 48 hours where we need a ‘layover.’ If we could get some block hotel rooms in a neighboring town, and churches to provide meals, then we could keep people from returning to the only place they know where to go,” she said.
Gibson said planners are hoping to provide “comfort packs” with medication to help those going through detox until they can get into treatment, in addition to providing them a safe place to stay.
“They’ve got to have somewhere to go that’s a safe place, and a secure place,” she said. “We’re looking for volunteers for Sunday to provide meals and fellowship and mentoring. It’s rough when they’re starting into that detox.”
Gibson said she hopes the Hope Over Heroin movement will encourage the faith community to offer support and resources for addicts after they’re finished with treatment.
“We have a gap after treatment in transitioning them back into the community,” Gibson said. “The thought process is if we can get the faith-based community involved on the ground, and provide community after treatment, that’s the piece we’re missing. We’re sending people right out of treatment back to the same old things with no support. Because HOH is a Christ-centered approach to addiction… it encourages the community and the faith-based community to provide the support these people need.”
Gibson said in some cases local churches can help addicts in ways their families can’t.
“They’ve stolen, they’ve lied, so there’s broken hearts in their families,” she said. “When the church community gets involved, there isn’t any of that when it comes to providing support.”
According to the organization’s website, Hope Over Heroin events have been attended by more than 60,000 people with more than 5,000 “decisions for Christ” and more than 1,000 baptisms.
Hope Over Heroin is a collaborative ministry led by pastors in Ohio and Kentucky “who came together to connect the Body of Christ in order to break the chains of the addicted,” according to the organization’s website.
A news release from the organization last year stated that over the years “we have learned that addiction does not discriminate; it can affect any person no matter the social status, friend group, family support or geographical location. Right now, Ohio is ranked No. 2 in the nation for heroin overdose and death, (according to a) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters have all been lost, right here, in Highland County.”
For more information, visit hopeoverheroin.com or visit the Hope For Highland County page on Facebook.
Those interested in helping can contact Kim Davis by calling FRS Counseling in Hillsboro at 937-393-9720.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.