LIBERTY, Ohio (WKBN) – A three-day, faith-based rally against heroin addiction began at Pleasant Valley Church in Liberty Thursday evening.
Jeff Swogger, the pastor of Greater Youngstown Wisdom Center in Vienna, is the man behind “Hope Over Heroin Mahoning Valley.”
“We’ve found a lot of people who’ve had this problem. They don’t know where to go to get help, so what we wanted to do is we wanted to put together an event to try and bring the community together so if somebody does have a problem, they know where to send them to,” he said.
The evening included musical entertainment, but organizations that deal with heroin also set up booths where people struggling with addiction can be referred to and helped.
Among the speakers was Mike Cobb, a graduate of Youngstown’s North High School, who went on to play football at Michigan State and later for the Bears and Bengals.
“We’re here speaking on behalf of the struggles a lot of people are having with heroin in this community,” Cobb said. “Trying to get the message out that that’s not the way they should live their lives, that they should live their lives with Jesus.”
Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk says there have been 44 confirmed drug overdose deaths from heroin and fentanyl in the county so far this year, with 22 more cases pending.
The record of 87, set last year, will likely be broken. He expects overdose deaths to exceed 100.
“It’s getting worse,” Germaniuk said. “I really don’t know what the answer is. All I can say is the answer is going to have to be multi-factorial. The family, the church, relatives, support systems.”
The rally will continue Friday and Saturday night at the Litco Corporation in Vienna. Shuttles to Litco can be picked up at Pleasant Valley Church.
For more information, visit Hope Over Heroin Mahoning Valley on Facebook.