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CARROLLTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- The jailer in Carroll County used to have a doctor attend to sick inmates three days a week. Now he employs a nurse five days a week because too many inmates are "dope sick."
The jail is so overcrowded he's moving inmates to other counties. The county's EMS department makes constant runs on heroin overdoses. The sheriff here says more arrests are helping reduce the amount of the drug on the streets, but that Carrollton's geographic proximity to Cincinnati and Louisville give users easy access to the drug.
Recovering addicts and those who have lost loved ones to heroin say Carroll County is doomed unless sweeping changes in behaviors and cultures occur.
It's that desire to rid the county of heroin that drew more than 70 people to gather at Point Park Wednesday evening. The meeting was spawned in part by an interview Jessica Herrell did last week WDRB News. As a recovering addict, Herrell, a Carrollton resident, discussed how losing her brother to a heroin overdose helped her become drug free.
"Heroin has taken over this town. I have close friends and family members who are strung out," Herrell said last week.
On this night, mothers clutching young children, senior citizens, recovering addicts and law enforcement gathered to have a public discussion about the struggles of the county.
"We tried and tried to get him help. But he will have been dead four years this October," said Kathy Dawson, who spoke Wednesday night.
Dawson says she remembers that phone call she got. She thought her son had been arrested.
"I asked them what number am I supposed to call and they said the coroner's office. So it's been hard," she said fighting back tears.
"We have a drug problem with all these answers and no solutions," said Kole Spears, a recovering heroin addict who said he's been battling addiction for 15 years.
Spears says he got clean only after numerous stints in jail. He told the crowd the county's problem won't change unless there are behavioral changes within individuals and a cultural shift away from the drug.
"I injected heroin. You do it once and you're hooked," Spears told WDRB News.
Most who attended Wednesday night's meeting agreed that simply talking about the problem is not a solution. But one suggestion included setting up an anonymous hotline for heroin users to call if they want help but are too afraid to call police.
Addicts contend more arrests doesn't treat the problem for what it is -- a disease. They argue that jailing more individuals will simply fuel the drug culture - by allowing addicts to learn new tricks and make more connections while behind bars.