When a community in Ohio was ravished with addiction, a couple stepped in to help.
Ohio couple Suzanne and Jesus Valle of Blue Creek witnessed addiction tearing their town apart as far back as twenty years ago. Prescription opioids and heroin began to flood the streets, and, at the same time, they began to wonder what would happen to the children of those who were using. They wanted to help.
From 2007 to 2018, the Valles took in six children from families struggling with addiction, including their own family. Four of these children were Suzanne’s brother’s, and two came from the foster care system. At this point, the couple had already raised nine of their own biological children.
“I always like to tell everybody we raised yours, mine, ours, my brother’s, now others,” Suzanne said, jokingly. “We have told the children that their parents do love them, but they are not able to take care of them.”
She said that this wasn’t the life they had initially intended, but it has been a blessing over the years. The Valles, both in their 60s, had initially wanted to travel when their biological children left home.
Suzanne reflected on this, saying, “But I don’t know if we would be as happy without all these kids. Kids bring happiness.”
The Ohio couple worries about their ability to continue for the children, ages three to 17, as they get older. “But if we can encourage every kid to help each other, I don’t think we have anything to worry about,” Jesus said.
Still living their dream of travel, but doing so on a more permanent basis, the family recently made a significant move to Inglis, Floridia.
Addiction is still very prevalent in Blue Creek, which is a hot spot for the opioid crisis, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In May, the agency identified the town as part of “one of 25 regions in the U.S. with disproportionately high rates of fatal opioid overdoses.” These numbers have increased due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Beginning in April 2020, according to the CDC, “more than 100,000 people died from overdoses in the subsequent 12-month period.”
Much of the issue has to do with an increase in the amount of fentanyl entering the country, which is a powerful synthetic opioid.
In a recent letter, members of the GOP Doctors Caucus demanded that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas take a closer look at this problem, which the group contended the Biden Administration has chosen to actively overlook.
Rep. Greg Murphy (Republican, N.C.), who led the initiative, said, “Every city is a border city when it comes to the record amount of dangerous fentanyl flowing into the U.S. from Mexico and China.” This includes midwestern towns, like the family’s hometown in Ohio.
The epidemic has the child welfare system busting at the seams, trying to find homes for children who are subjected to abuse and neglect. In July, the Ohio couple finalized the adoption of the last two kids they took in.
“I never expect anybody to praise me for what I do,” Jesus said. “Things change, but I don’t mind because I think we did the right thing.”