The Heroin Hearse treks across interstates from its home-base in Huntington, West Virginia into eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, delivering a fiercely frank message on the tailgate: “Heroin Kills, is this your last ride?”
In May 2016, a 6-year-old boy strapped inside a hot vehicle, his father passed out from an overdose, compelled Dwayne Woods to act. “I’ll never forget that child (Kenny) as his arms wrapped around my neck and his tears running down my back,” Woods said.
“We’re advocates for children, we’re getting the word out.”
He saved the child and today the Heroin Hearse, owned by Woods, roams the streets, collecting teddy bears to give to children in a new “Bears for Kenny” project.
Last February, he bought a 1988 Buick hearse with the intent of cutting off the top and hauling motorcycles in it – then he heard a reports of drug overdoses. With his partner, Trish Burns, and his two children, Brandon, 10 and Victoria, 8, they hit the streets, “talking to children and families everyday” about the incredibly deadly heroin epidemic, trying to shake its lethal grip with logic, awareness and hope, one person at a time.
Woods says, “It’s all about getting the awareness out there. Stigma, in my opinion, is killing as many as the heroin.”
Heroin use has more than doubled among young adults ages 18 – 25 in the past decade, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 9 in 10 people who used heroin also used at least one other drug.
Stigma, combined with a number of contributing factors including economic, societal attitudes and indifference, drive the lack of awareness about the epidemic.
Woods and his family drive thousands of miles – over 6,000 miles since buying the Heroin Hearse, and spend each weekend on the road.
In 2012, the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services said, “Ohio’s opiate epidemic is a crisis of unparalleled proportions with devastating, often deadly, consequences. Opiates include both heroin and prescription pain-reliever medications. In fact, these substances accounted for nearly 63 percent of the state’s
1,544 overdose deaths in 2010.”
Last month, Gov. John Kasich said Ohio is at the epicenter of the opioid epidemic simply because of its location. Woods says differently. “There is no epicenter. You think you can hide from it. It’s everywhere. Law enforcement takes one off the street and 20 more show up. It’s terrible. There’s no epicenter, there’s no ground zero.”
The Heroin Hearse isn’t loaded with pamphlets or flyers, but instead it has over 220 “Bears for Kenny,” and awareness information in the form of human interaction, people talking to people. “It’s better to talk face-to-face to get the word out. I want to start a fire in the heart and mind,” Woods said.
Source: Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA)