The opioid crisis in the United States continues to dominate headlines. A growing number of people are dependent on drugs, and while the problem is well known, measures to slow dependency have yet to have a major impact.
One man in Ohio is taking matters into his own hands. Last summer, tired of seeing his neighborhood overrun with drug activity, Denny Matheny decided to take a stand.
Denny Matheny, a concerned citizen living in Hamilton, Ohio, took drastic measures to put an end to drug activity on his block.
Today my grandpa Dennis Matheny is sitting on Parkamo Ave. in Hamilton with these signs next to him. He says they call…
Matheny, a Kentucky native who moved to Hamilton, Ohio, 55 years ago, wants his neighborhood to be a safe place for his great-grandchildren to play. After witnessing the abundance of drug activity first-hand, he decided to do something about it.
“Today my grandpa Dennis Matheny is sitting on Parkamo Ave. in Hamilton with these signs next to him,” Matheny’s granddaughter, Sarah Marie said in a Facebook post accompanied by a photo of Matheny sitting next to a home-made sign. “He says they call this street ‘heroin alley’.”
Matheny said he’d found a number of hypodermic needles on the corner of his block, only a short distance from where his great-grandchildren play in his yard.
“It used to be a great neighborhood and now heroin has just about destroyed it,” Matheny told the Journal-News.
Fearing for the safety of his community, and for his treasured great-grandchildren, on 31 July 2017, he drew up a sign that said “No Drugs Today,” and sat watch in a lawn chair outside of his home.
After his granddaughter’s Facebook post spread, Matheny was overwhelmed with support.
“He said he will sit here all day today and make sure no one sells, overdoses or dies from heroin on his corner today,” read the post on Facebook.
“I’m not against these kids that are on heroin. I want to help them. I pastor a church right up the street and my vision is to help them. I don’t want to see them die,” Matheny told Fox19 News.
Many people stopped to express their support, including the chief of police.
“We have met and talked with many people walking up and down his street. We have had so much praise from people driving by and waving,” Sarah Marie wrote on Facebook the next day.
True to his word, the image of him sitting outside with his sign, and his continued vigilance led to a rally in August 2017 with various members of the community.
“I didn’t believe all of this would happen but I am glad that it did,” Matheny told the Journal-News.
“Now, people are coming from all different neighborhoods and are saying if you can do it we can do it too. You can’t stop all of the drugs as one person, but we can all try to make a difference.”
The rally was attended by law enforcement, local residents, and former addicts who are committed to getting drugs off the street.
One of Matheny’s neighbors, who attended the rally, put out his own sign in support and agrees that the community have to take action.
“It is past being a problem, and the people who live here have to do something,” Jerry Ninke told the Journal-News. “It is time for us to do something. We don’t report it to police, but we have to do that.”
Officers realize it’s impossible to get someone to monitor every block, but they hoped ‘No Drugs Today’ would spur more community involvement.
And it did. Matheny helped to set up a group “No Drug’s Today” Neighborhood Watch that still meets regularly to work on ways to help stop the drug epidemic and support those affected by it.
“We are going to get down to business. People from all over are out here and willing to make a difference. We are all going to work together to address this problem,” Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit told the Journal-News.
Matheny and local law enforcement hope that citizens will be more emboldened to call and report drug activity when they see it.
Matheny was tired of people calling his community “Heroin alley.” But because of his boldness, drug dealers have been arrested, and the community are still working together for a better future for all residents.
“He may not be able to change the world or the whole city of Hamilton for that matter but he’s not going to give up on trying to make it a better place,” wrote his granddaughter on Facebook. “It takes just 1 person to take that first step into making it a better place for us to live.”