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Group uses Boone County 4-H and Utopia Fair to bring attention to Northern Kentucky's heroin problem

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BURLINGTON, Ky. - Mixed among the Tilt-a-Whirl and vendors selling food on a stick at theBoone County 4-H and Utopia Fair was a harsh message about the realities of heroin use in Northern Kentucky.

A group used the family-friendly event in Burlington, Ky. to make the point that the drug is devastating the region.

While most fairgoers were engaged in eating carnival foods or waiting in line to board a carnival ride, the  Foxfire Foundation was handing out information about the heroin problem in Northern Kentucky.

The Foxfire Foundation works to educate the public that drug addicts have a "very real disease" that has infected parts of Northern Kentucky.

“Boone County had three deaths of young people – 21, 24 and 20 -- since the first of the year,” said Carol Wagner who founded the organization with her husband, Cliff, in 2006.

The Wagners hung the sign "Free Drugs" above their booth to drive home the point that there is a readily available supply of heroin in the community.

A recent study found that Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties accounted for almost 60 percent of heroin prosecutions in the state during 2011 even those counties made up only 8.4 percent of Kentucky’s population at that time.

The Wagners said they believe the problem isn’t contained to Northern Kentucky and fear people across the Greater Cincinnati area will continue to lose their lives. 

One of the people that lost the battle with the drug is the couple’s son, Chad.

The death of the couple’s 37-year-old son is 2005 is what caused them to say enough is enough.

They said there was a popular athlete at the University of Kentucky, popular with women and was “happy-go-lucky” so if he could suffer from drug addiction, anyone can.

"Our son, Chad, died of a heroin overdose on May 20, 2005. He was a wonderful person, a smart, talented man, and burdened with the disease of drug addiction," the Wagners wrote on the organization's website.

And that’s why the Wagners decided to reach out to the public through their organization, to let people know help is out there.

"Since then, we decided to use the knowledge we gained from traveling this awful journey with Chad, to try to save others from entering the hell of drug addiction," the Wagners wrote.

They said they’re trying to “save lives and soften hearts” through encouragement, by helping people believe in themselves and seeking out the right kind of help.

Thankfully, Northern Kentucky received a bit of help with their battle Thursday when a new medical center in Covington opened its doors for the first time.

The NKY Med Clinic at 1717 Madison Ave. is the Northern Kentucky area’s first full-service substance-abuse treatment center, the first to provide methadone therapy. There are 12 methadone clinics in the state.

“Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) has been proven to be the most successful treatment for opiate addiction,” according to the clinic’s website. “Methadone Maintenance Treatment for opiate addiction at NKY Med Clinic is supported with a full complement of substance abuse and life-skills counseling as well as supervised medical care.”

Methadone and Suboxone help block euphoric effects of the drugs, curb the patient’s cravings and help manage withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone is a prescribed medication taken at home by the patient.

Executive Director Jessica Allender said the facility had a “busy opening day."

"The need for treatment services in Northern Kentucky is great. The need for different types of treatment services is great,” she said.

The Wagners will have their booth set up throughout the duration of the fair, which runs through Sunday.

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You can find out more information about the foundation at the following link:  http://foxfirefoundation.org

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