Walkers take steps to publicize growing heroin problems - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Walkers take steps to publicize growing heroin problems

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Helena Embry stands with a photo of her friend, heroin overdose victim Jonathan Trauth. Helena Embry stands with a photo of her friend, heroin overdose victim Jonathan Trauth.
Melissa Trauth stands with a picture of her son, Jonathan. Melissa Trauth stands with a picture of her son, Jonathan.
Members of Walking for Wellness: Stop Heroin Louisville present a check to Karyn Hascal, president of The Healing Place drug treatment center. Members of Walking for Wellness: Stop Heroin Louisville present a check to Karyn Hascal, president of The Healing Place drug treatment center.
Stephanie Richardson, right front, and Brian Scalf, right rear, of New Albany, walk on the Big Four Bridge during the Stop Heroin event Saturday. Stephanie Richardson, right front, and Brian Scalf, right rear, of New Albany, walk on the Big Four Bridge during the Stop Heroin event Saturday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The rampant spread of heroin in the Louisville area means someone you know may be a user -- and may be seeking help.
Newly-formed groups on both sides of the river want you to see and hear that message.

They are called Walking for Wellness: Stop Heroin Louisville and Stop Heroin Southern Indiana.

Their members walked the Big Four Bridge Saturday afternoon to symbolize coming together for a cause.

Most of them said it was a surprise that heroin abuse came into their lives.

"We didn't want other people to have to go through what we did. We wanted people to start talking about it," Louisville organizer Melissa Trauth said.

Even on a bright and sunny afternoon, it was easy to spot the bright t-shirts. And the signs. All reflected the same message: "Stop heroin" and not to use it, "not even once."

A closer look found many of the 150 walkers on the Big Four Bridge carried pictures of loved ones who are no longer here.

"We lost Jonathan on October 14th, 2013, of a heroin overdose. He fought hard to overcome his addiction, but he lost his battle in October with it," explained Melissa Trauth of Louisville.

The death of her son Jonathan at age 23 prompted her to form Stop Heroin Louisville.

"We felt alone going through my son's addiction. We didn't know anybody else who had children going through it," Trauth said.

"It's real people. It's friends, it's fathers, it's brothers and sisters. It's real people; they're not just junkies on the street. They are family members. They're important to somebody," said Jonathan Trauth's friend Helena Embry.

A similar Stop Heroin group is based in Jeffersonville, Ind. The members walk weekly, but not just for their health. They walk for a community's health.

Kathy Benish carried her son Adam's picture. He died of an overdose four years ago.

"It's a very tragic disease, and it takes the children, or the people that use, and the families along with them," Benish said.

She talked of meeting a childhood friend, Debbie Henderson-Thomas through the program. They learned they had the death of a child in common, attributed to heroin. They walked together in support of each other, the first time they've participated in a Stop Heroin event.

Walkers previously raised more than $1300 for The Healing Place drug treatment center in Louisville. They presented the check to its president, Karyn Hascal Saturday.

"Right now our fastest-growing population is 18- to 25-year-old heroin addicts," Hascal said.

Hascal is happy to hear stories from recovering addicts like Stephanie Richardson of New Albany, who says she's been clean for two months.

 "I did it cold turkey. I prayed to God everyday, and my withdrawals (were) not bad," Richardson said. "I've had family turn their backs on me. Once they see that you're changing, it gets better. It takes time and a lot of patience."

The walkers want to help those who are addicted -- but also want to do what they can to stop the drug's abuse in the first place. They know it's a tough task, given that heroin use and addiction have topped prescription painkiller abuse in today's society.

Hascal says 80 percent of the people who seek treatment at The Healing Place are addicted to heroin.

"We can stop it, we can slow it down, if we work at the grassroots level. It has to be person-to-person." Hascal said.

Talking -- and walking -- could represent some of the next steps to easing the problem.

Find Walking for Wellness: Stop Heroin Louisville on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stopheroinlouisville?fref=ts and Walking for Wellness: Stop Heroin Southern Indiana at https://www.facebook.com/stopheroinsouthernIN?fref=ts

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