JACKSON CENTER — Mike McRill is no stranger to the devastating effects of drug addiction and stands as a beacon of hope to those willing to seek help in conquering this dreaded disease.
McRill, the Community Resource Officer for the Sidney Police Department, heads up SAAT (Sidney Addict Assistance Team). Though just a one-man team at present, he is determined to make a difference in the lives of people living in his community by assisting those who have had enough of the pain and suffering associated with drug addiction whether dealing directly with the addicts themselves or offering direction and advice to friends and family members of addicts who are looking for help in dealing with what can seem like a hopeless situation. While the assistance is available to people dealing with the effects of any drug, opiate addiction is the focus of the team as it has the most devastating and wide-spread affect and as McRill pointed out “Is a growing problem right here in Shelby County and affects everyone, we have had 12 deaths and 122 OD calls in Sidney so far this year!”
McRill met with members of the Jackson Center Greater Growth Association Thursday, Oct. 26, to share a brief but informative presentation about what the drugs are, where they come from, and who is using them. His presentation also revealed how to identify the signs of opiate use and withdrawal from the drugs and shared 2017 statistics from the Sidney Police Department on emergency response to drug overdose related calls.
McRill shared resources that are currently available to help addicts and those affected by their addiction.
“This disease — and it truly is a disease — is not what people expect,” said McRill. “I don’t believe addicts start out looking for a way to destroy themselves and quitting drugs is not like trying to stop drinking pop.
”This disease has been responsible for taking the lives of many people in Sidney and Shelby County, has increased criminal activity due to addicts trying to support their habit and has permanently damaged the lives of way too many people; the good news is we offer help to those who want to stop using and get on the road to recovery” McRill said.
McRill noted while heroin is a major concern, the biggest enemy at present is the drug fentanyl which is commonly sold as heroin to unsuspecting users.
“Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin and is very deadly. It is not only sold as heroin but is also mixed with cocaine and marijuana and has devastating effects on those who use the drug. While many of the drugs used in this area are manufactured in China and later sent to Mexico for mixing and distribution in the United States, most of the drugs used in Sidney come from Dayton, Ohio,” he said.
McRill pointed out there is a notion that only “criminals and bad people” use these kinds of drugs but that is not always the case.
”More often than not it is someone just like you and me who already has an existing personal problem in their life they feel they can’t share with friends or family and the pressure builds until they look for an escape; many times drugs are used for that escape but ironically they just multiply and complicate the issues leading the victim down a road to hopelessness drowning in a sea of despair,” he said.
Even when an addict overcomes the addiction, the temptation remains and is most often tied to isolation.
“I know a woman who was stopped using and was ‘clean’ for several years, she went through countless treatment facilities and yet she recently relapsed due to loneliness and the lack of human connection. Often family ties are broken, friendships damaged and it just seems like there is no place to go,” McRill said.
McRill said SAAT is there to help those in need but getting started on the road to recovery can only take place after the addict makes a choice to do so.
“I tell addicts I’ll give them direction and stand beside them in the fight but the battle is theirs; they have to choose to do the right thing and until they do nothing will change.” he said.
During his presentation McRill shared countless personal experiences about people, places, and things he has dealt with the average person can’t comprehend and has no idea about how widespread, and unhealthy the drug problem is noting he was once called to assist in helping out with an overdose situation in the basement of a local apartment building where he found a woman sprawled out on a filthy floor covered in an array of trash; numerous syringes littered the floor indicating it was a favorite haunt of local addicts.
“Obviously it was not the kind of place anyone would want to hang out indicating the desperation held by those who went there, but the pain of withdrawal makes people do things they wouldn’t normally do,” McRill said. He continued saying the girl he found there later told him she was there because she could not endure the pain of withdrawal, she said “It hurts real bad, it’s like the worst flu you ever felt, I can’t explain how bad it makes you feel.”
McRill noted no two situations are alike and there is no one answer about what to do making it hard to handle at times.
“Do I get angry YES! Do I get frustrated YES! Still I took an oath as a police officer to help people, it’s my job and it’s what I love to do,” he said. “I learned real fast that these are people in trouble, and I must stay focused on the fact they are suffering, not what they did to get there! We’re not going to ‘arrest’ our way out of this thing … arrests and filling prisons is only a temporary fix and if the addicts are weak and eventually find themselves back on the street, they end up in the same mess they came from; sooner or later many will relapse and are using again with some buying and selling the drugs to support their habit … they’re not in it for the money, it’s just a matter of fighting the disease only way they know how.
“Though it is discouraging to see people relapse, treatment is not a total failure, at least some progress is made in the fact we are developing a known path back to help and recovery,” he said.
McRill shared a list of resources available and noted education is key.
“In order for anything to change we are all going to have to recognize this is a big problem, a growing one that is not going to go away,” he said. “It affects all walks of life and is a reflection of the effects of loneliness and a feeling of hopelessness. Again we are dealing with a disease, an evil and powerful enemy that’s not only consuming it’s victims but those around them and society as a whole. I’m hoping to get the word out to addicts and those who care about them that there is help available.
“I have free brochures on hand with contact information for those seeking help as well as professional advice on how to get help and there are also a lot of other compassionate, caring people ready and waiting to lend a hand where deeded. I do presentations on a regular basis as well as working with those struggling with the effects of addiction,” he said. “Please feel free to contact me if you or someone you know needs help with drug addictions.”
McRill said the Shelby County Drug Task Force will be meeting next Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, at 7 p.m. at the American Legion 1265 Fourth Ave., Sidney, Ohio. There will be several speakers and a panel of people familiar with the struggle of addictions to answer questions.
Officer Mike McRill can be contacted at 234 W. Court St. Sidney, Ohio 45365; phone: 937-498-8722 (Fax 937-498-8190); or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.