Heroin Epidemic Raises Awareness of Community Problems

By Paul Gable

The heroin epidemic in Horry County has reached proportions that seems to finally have spurred local government agencies to begin addressing violence and other problems throughout Horry County.

Six months ago, community activists Bennie Swans, Jon Bonsignor and Tim McCray approached Myrtle Beach City Council for help in addressing violence in the community.

They were essentially turned away with Mayor John Rhodes giving his impression of a Donald Trump style ‘gotcha’, blaming the community for the problem, attacking the activists and claiming the focus on community violence would hurt tourism.

The three got a better reception at the Horry County Council level with the establishment of a Community Violence Subcommittee formed to investigate the problem and make a report including recommendations for ways to counter the rising problems of violent crime and drugs in the communities.

To date, that committee has floundered by becoming involved in a comparison study of minutiae related to Horry County and counties in other states, but, at least, it is doing something and, hopefully, will eventually find its way.

Tuesday night, the City of Myrtle Beach hosted an overflow crowd to a community meeting on the heroin epidemic at the Base Recreation Center near Market Common.

By all reports, the meeting was a good one. One could argue it was six months late, but at least a positive acknowledgement that there is a problem and it is going to take the entire community – citizens, community activists, law enforcement and other government agencies, the schools and various non-profits – working together to address the problem.

While the heroin epidemic is a big problem, it is not the only one. Gangs, violent crime, lack of economic opportunity and the deaths of too many young people in the community all have their part in the overall picture.

After Tuesday’s meeting and with ongoing efforts by the county subcommittee at least there seems to be a willingness to acknowledge problems exist. That is the first step in solving a problem.

Now we must move to developing what are called the “Three C’s” – communication, cooperation, coordination – between and among the various groups mentioned above to begin to address solutions to the problems.

This is exactly what Swans, Bonsignor and McCray were requesting from Myrtle Beach and Horry County months ago.

It has taken time and an expanding heroin epidemic to begin to address that we have problems. Hopefully, this awareness will move the process along.

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