Six months ago, a public awareness campaign on the heroin epidemic started in many Missouri communities. Heroin abuse, overdoses and pill popping is running rampant. Town hall forums to educate the communities of Jefferson City, Rolla, Columbia and St. Louis have been held. Newspaper articles, magazines and the television stations have run pieces on this nemesis. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services felt the need to release a Heroin Overdose report last February.
The report stated in 2007, heroin deaths in Missouri totaled 69, in 2011 they totaled 244. St. Louis police reported 500 deaths that were heroin related in the last three years. Columbia police reported that three years ago four percent of their drug calls were heroin related. Now they are up to 30 percent. Pill popping seems to be a common starting point for heroin users (Xanex, Oxycoton and Percocet.)
I have learned a lot from former addicts I have spoken to. I wish I had a dime for every time, many of them told me, they were only alive because of one reason; getting arrested. This is the only way many will get help. Many people think incarceration is just about removing people off the street. Drug courts save many. Reporting is not snitching, in most cases, it's saving a life. Many people feel this is not their problem unless it affects their family. They feel it is only the responsibility of the law enforcement agencies to fight this issue.
I'm here to tell you, they can not do it by themselves. This problem is too large. On one Monday night, last month, the News Tribune reported 15 incidents of either burglary, thefts or hold ups. Locally and nationally 73 percent of all crimes are committed by drug addicts. Ninety percent of all juvenile delinquents never committed a crime until they tried drugs.
I challenge parents to watch their kids more closely. I hope all of us help the police by reporting unusual situations. Last, I challenge the schools to amp up their presentations on drug issues and law enforcement to provide us with frequent reports on this activity.
This issue is still a war and we need all citizens to be soldiers in this fight.