NEWTONSVILLE, Ohio — It would be unimaginable to lose a child to a heroin overdose. What about two?
That’s the reality 60-year-old Roger Winemiller faces on his farm in rural Wayne Township in Clermont County’s northeastern corner.
The New York Times reports that Winemiller found his 31-year-old daughter Heather Himes slumped over in the downstairs bathroom of the family farmhouse on March 26, 2016. Nine months later, Winemiller’s 37-year-old son Eugene was found overdosed at his mother’s home.
Winemiller is wary of handing over the reins of the family farm to his one remaining son, 35-year-old Roger T. Winemiller, who The Times reports has been jailed for drug charges and is living with his father as he undergoes treatment.
“Would I like to have one of my kids working the farm, side by side, carrying my load when I can’t?” the elder Winemiller asked The Times. “Yes. But I’m a realist.”
Firefighters told The Times they answered 18 overdose calls in 2016 in Wayne Township. Unfortunately, like so many other rural parts of America, the 4,900 people who reside in this corner of the Tri-State generally don’t have ready access to treatment services.
"You don’t have access to A.A. meetings seven days a week,” Tom Vilsack, President Barack Obama's Agriculture Department secretary, told The Times. “You’re lucky if you’ve got one a week, or you’ve got to drive 25 miles to get to one.”
Winemiller frequently takes his son, whose driver's license has been revoked, to Blanchester for appointments at the probation office and then to Xenia for his drug treatment clinic. He worries what will happen once winter ends and it's time to head back to long days tending his crops.
“Once I get busy in the field, I ain’t going to have time for this stuff,” Winemiller said.
He left this warning for people who would rather blame addicts as weak than help them battle their addiction:
"For these people that want to turn their back on the addict and wash their hands of the situation, I have this message for you: Open up your eyes and care and love someone because you could be next. Addiction has no boundaries. It’s like cancer. It hits the youngest and the oldest and the richest and the poorest," Winemiller said.
Read more about the Winemillers and their family’s struggle with addiction here.
For more on our community's response to the drug epidemic, please visit Heroin: How Do We Respond?