Westerville community leaders are talking about heroin -- an issue that affects the city more than many think.

Westerville community leaders are talking about heroin -- an issue that affects the city more than many think.

An information meeting took place April 6, just days after Police Chief Joe Morbitzer said there were two overdoses in the city. Morbitzer said both victims were saved by emergency teams, but used the incidents to emphasize the presence of heroin in Westerville.

Represented at the meeting were the Westerville Division of Police; Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine's office; the Westerville City School District; the Westerville Ministerial Association; Concord Counseling Services; the Westerville Chamber of Commerce; the Franklin County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board; the Delaware County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and the Westerville Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association.

"What I would have loved to have seen is 1,000 people here," Morbitzer told the crowd to open the meeting. "But the feeling is, 'This can't possibly happen in a suburb like Westerville.' We've got to get over that thought, because it does happen here."

Delaney Smith, medical director at ADAMH, said that even though there weren't 1,000 people in attendance, such meetings can make a difference.

"We're really pleased to see these popping up in different communities," she said. "It's really good to see how they're happening in different cities."

She said the meetings are key to not only exposing residents to the issue, but making important connections.

"People who are there are talking to each other and then after the meeting (asking), 'Can you come speak at this event?' or, 'What's your insight on this area?' " she said. "It's helping to make those communities better and continue to get the word out about treatment and also the prevention aspect of things."

To add a personal touch, Morbitzer shared a story about his cousin, who he said he was "very close" with.

He said she was addicted to heroin as a teenager, and eventually had three children. After she quit heroin and was clean, she was prone to seizures and drowned in her bathtub because of one. Morbitzer said her son came home from school and found her.

"We're here tonight to talk about how we address the causes and prevent the effects," he said.

"Without a multi-disciplinary approach, we will have no effect. We can't arrest ourselves out of this problem.

"We're not talking about bad people here, folks. We're talking about addicted people."

That's a point Smith and ADAMH want to emphasize.

"(Addiction) is an illness like anything else," she said. "It's not a moral failing. This is something that ADAMH has been working on for a long time, and we're excited to see the rest of the community realize this is an issue and that this is part of a bigger issue with drugs and alcohol."