When Port Washington resident, Eric Armstrong, returned from four years in the Marine Corps, he felt as though he had lost his focus. Then, his friend needed him.
"I'd be dead without this guy," insisted Josh Melton, who nearly became one of the many young adults in Ozaukee County to lose his life because of heroin addiction. Luckily, with the help of family and friends, Josh has been able to get back on the right track, and his success made him and Eric wonder if they could do more.
Just two months ago, Josh, Eric, and their friend, Micah Henning, formed the group O.A.T.H.E. - Ozaukeeans Against The Heroin Epidemic - and the response has been overwhelming.
"I felt driven to do this," Eric stated. "I wasn't sure where it would go, but I started the facebook page and it just went crazy!."
The support group page already has over 2,000 members, and their group page has nearly 350 "likes" -- pretty amazing for such a short time, and a strong indication that people are ready, and need to, talk about this issue.
OATHE intends to change the perception of opiate abuse in Ozaukee county, and their mission is clearly stated: To eradicate substance abuse in Ozaukee County by supporting addicts in their path to effective and long-lasting recovery, preventing addiction through community engagement and education, and replacing societal attitudes of apathy and judgment toward addicts with compassion and understanding.
Fundraising efforts have already begun for what the group believes is an excellent solution to the problem: the return of a Youth Rec Center.
"We want to do outreach in schools. We want to bring different groups together in the community and offer performance art, music classes, gaming - to teach positive activities kids can get involved in instead of drugs," Josh said.
The three said that lack of funding, video games and the internet all contributed to the closing of Rec Centers in the community, but feel that people are realizing it's time to "come up for air" and make those real connections with people because they're essential.
"I bring the real world experience to the group," Josh said, "and support makes all the difference. We're creating a family for the ones that need it."
If you're interested in getting involved in O.A.T.H.E., there is a meeting at Tello's in the lower level at 6 pm on Tuesday, December 1st. Contact (414) 573-1597 to r.s.v.p. or for more information.