NKY Forum sheds light on heroin epidemic

Posted at 3:22 PM, Mar 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-15 15:22:17-04

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — One of the biggest problems facing the region and how to handle it will be front and center when the Northern Kentucky Forum discusses heroin and public policy Wednesday.

The forum will be held at 7 p.m. at Griffin Hall's Digitorium at Northern Kentucky University. There will be an information session from a panel of speakers with expertise on how heroin is reflected in public policy, followed by discussion on the topic.

Following the table discussions, the audience will have an opportunity to discuss the provided information amongst themselves as well as provide feedback concerning public policies on heroin in Northern Kentucky. There will also be three questions to stimulate the discussion.

The forum is scheduled for 90 minutes, but given the nature of the topic and potential for further discussion, it may run longer. 

"We're trying to engage the audience, but we want them to be educated on the topic, so we looked for people who could do that," said Mark Neikirk, executive director for the forum. "There's already a vibrant discussion in the community and the media about this topic. It's important, and we want to be part of the conversation."

Speakers on the panel are:

  • Wes Akers is a professor in NKU's College of Informatics. He and NKU student Tori Lentz are working on a documentary about the heroin epidemic locally, a clip of which will be shared Wednesday night. 
  • Kenton County Judge-executive Kris Knochelmann has elevated heroin as a priority for county government. He will outline what he sees as important steps in combating the heroin epidemic, and what he and other elected officials are doing about it. 
  • Dr. Perilou Goddard is an NKU psychology professor. She studies the science behind addiction and effective treatment. Dr. Goddard will discuss the science behind various public policy approaches, such as needle exchange programs.
  • Ohio State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton. Rep. Driehaus has sponsored a variety of anti-heroin bills, and has become a leading voice in the region for this cause. Her focus will be on what her efforts are and how the states of Ohio and Kentucky are learning from each other and working together to end the heroin epidemic. "There's a productive volley between the two states," Neikirk said. "It's an interesting relationship."
  • Jason Merrick is a graduate student at NKU working on a master's in social work, while also launching an addiction treatment unit at the Kenton County Jail. As a recovering addict, he will share his firsthand knowledge of how public policy can save lives, along with ideas on what else can be done. 

The Northern Kentucky Forum is sponsored by Skyward, Legacy and NKU's Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement. The Forum also has an ongoing partnership with WVXU’s Cincinnati Edition to expand ideas to the airwaves. The Forum was founded in 2008 and since then has held nearly 90 events, which have reached thousands of people. Typically, 10-12 events are held on a variety of issues facing Northern Kentucky throughout Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties. 

Those interested in attending the event may RSVP through
The event will be streamed live at

The next Northern Kentucky Forum event will be a morning cafe with the field representations for U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. It will be April 1 at Gateway in Covington. The discussion on heroin will continue April 18 when Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland, a book published last year set in Portsmouth, Ohio that details the transition of American drug culture from opiates to heroin. 

"Sam Quinones was the catalyst," Neikirk said. "The Forum is accustomed to talking about public policy, and it seemed like a nice time to talk about that right now."