Community leaders discuss impact of opiate epidemic on black communities; more news

A group of community leaders gathered at New Prospect Baptist Church to talk about the growing risks of opiate addiction and overdose among black Cincinnatians

Rev. Damon Lynch III speaks at an event last year at New Prospect Baptist Church. - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Rev. Damon Lynch III speaks at an event last year at New Prospect Baptist Church.

Hello, all. Hope you had a good weekend and are gearing up for a great Fourth of July. Here’s a quick news roundup to get your week going.

More than a thousand people turned out at Washington Park Saturday to protest immigration enforcement policies recently enacted by the Trump administration. You can see photos from the rally — one of many across the country — and read more in our story here.

• That wasn’t the only rally against Trump policies in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Friday held a protest on Fountain Square that drew more than 100 people to decry the Trump administration’s travel ban on a number of majority Muslim countries. This was the administration’s third attempt at the ban, with federal courts striking down previous executive orders from Trump. The Supreme Court last week, however, upheld the latest version of the ban.

• Community groups held a panel discussion Saturday at New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn about the impact of the opiate epidemic on African-American communities in Cincinnati and beyond. Though media and law enforcement have paid a great deal of attention to the surge of heroin and other opiate-related overdoses, oftentimes experts say that attention is focused on white addicts. But minorities are suffering heavily, and increasingly, from addiction and overdoses, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. That’s something people in Cincinnati need to pay more attention to, local activists say.

“There is a growing number of overdoses and overdose deaths in the African-American community," New Prospect’s Rev. Damon Lynch III said. "We want to get ahead of this before it becomes a full-blown crisis."

• Former Vice President (and possible future Democratic presidential candidate) Joe Biden touched down in Cincinnati Friday to stump for Ohio gubernatorial hopeful Richard Cordray. Biden dropped by Beyond Image barbershop in Camp Washington to shake some hands, talk Ohio politics and make absolutely no commitments one way or another about a future presidential run while also kind of running for president just a little bit.

During his remarks at the shop, Biden lit into Trump, as he has over the course of the Republican’s administration.

"I don't think he has any ideology other than aggrandizing power," he said of the president. "It's not like he's liberal or conservative."

• The FBI has arrested a man they began investigating last year when he lived in Cincinnati for plotting a terrorist attack on Cleveland’s Fourth of July parade. Authorities today announced they arrested Demetrius Pitts, who once lived in Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Philadelphia and elsewhere. Pitts, they say, spoke with a person he thought was a member of al Qaeda about helping with a plot, devised by Pitts, that involved parking a van with explosives in it near the parade. The person Pitts met with wasn’t a member of the terrorist group, however, but an undercover agent. The FBI says Pitts has been vocal about his support for the radical organization on social media for more than a year. Pitts has lived in several cities in Ohio and recently moved to Cleveland, where he met with an undercover officer and spoke about his plans in person, according to authorities. If convicted, Pitts could face up to 20 years in prison.

• Here’s something a little surprising: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a progressive Democrat, is doing very well in Ohio’s Trump country. Polling shows him with a big lead over his Republican opponent Jim Renacci, who has Trump’s seal of approval. Of course, we all learned our lesson about polling in the 2016 presidential election, but this story seems to back up Brown’s big numbers with interviews with some Trump voters who like Brown’s style. Renacci has struggled to gain traction against Brown, the incumbent, after switching from a run for the GOP’s gubernatorial nod last year.

• The state of Ohio issued its first permit for legally growing marijuana to a company in Ravenna, a town near Cleveland. The state is hustling to finish inspections at other sites to which it has given provisional approval for marijuana cultivation ahead of a September deadline for having the state’s medicinal marijuana program up and running.

• Back to Cleveland for a minute: Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James announced yesterday that he will leave the team for a second time and sign a contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. James, who grew up in northeast Ohio, will get $154 million for the four-year deal. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert released a statement thanking James for his tenure on the Cavs, including a 2016 championship that “united generations of Clevelanders.” That’s a far cry from Gilbert’s reaction when James left the team in 2010 for the Miami Heat, which the Cavs owner decried with words like “cowardly” and “betrayal.”

• A federal judge Friday rejected work requirements for Medicaid recipients pushed by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican and approved by President Donald Trump. U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg sent the program, called Kentucky HEALTH, back to Kentucky’s department of health and human services, calling the plan “arbitrary and capricious.” State officials say they will work on addressing the judge’s objections. Had the requirements been instituted, Campbell County in Northern Kentucky would have been the first in the country to require proof of work for eligible Medicaid recipients.

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