I was at the end of a meeting with a mother whose child is a victim of the country’s opioid epidemic. “So, I’m trying to write about how the opioid epidemic is affecting us,” I informed her. She responded immediately: “It touches everyone, it’s everywhere. I mean, how did it get to this?”
“Where do I even start?”
Muskingum County, Ohio, is a typical Midwestern community full of kind, generous, and community-minded folks. Social and volunteer organizations flourish. Local philanthropists have made it a point to invest heavily here, to the entire community’s benefit.
Zanesville, the county’s seat, weathered the storm of the Great Recession better than many Midwestern small towns, but you can still see the scars.
Even so, the county has a little bit of anything you might want. You can live in a historical district, a downtown artist colony, or so far out in the country hills that you’ve got no mobile phone coverage. There’s farm-to-table food, fast-food joints, and Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl, voted USA Today’s “Best Ice Cream Shop in America” as every proud Zanesvillian is pleased to tell you. It’s Midwestern small-town America.
It’s a good community, with 86,000 decent, hard-working people. Yet every person here knows or is acquainted with someone who is affected by what the media calls “the opiate crisis.” It is a scourge our country allows to rage on, unfettered.