Meth makes unwelcome entrance to Ottawa County

There are not dozens of homegrown meth labs dotting every corner here, with self-taught chemists mixing at odd hours to produce a notorious white powder that spawns incessant picking, scratching and frightening hallucinations.

But meth has arrived in Ottawa County.

Carl Rider, Ottawa County's drug task force commander, relayed a story about an Ottawa County Sheriff's Office call from roughly two years ago that symbolized meth's early, ominous arrival in Port Clinton.

On a night where the wind chill factor dipped to 20 below zero, the sheriff's office got a call that a woman was running down Lakeshore Drive, claiming that someone was chasing her.

There was snow on the ground, Rider said, and an Ottawa County sheriff deputy retraced the woman's steps.

Her meth use had created a ghost.

"There was no one chasing her. She ran from a meth house and was coming into Port Clinton hallucinating, paranoid, and there was no one there," Rider said.

Other Ohio counties have struggled to curb the flow of meth from Mexico into their communities for years.

Now it's Ottawa County's turn.

Recovery from Addiction

At Light House Sober Living House in Port Clinton, Ashley Ammerman has found a place to help in her recovery from meth use.

Alcohol had its hold on Ammerman since she took her first drink at age 13.

Methamphetamines took over and seized control of Ammerman's life in March 2017.

The women's house is what's saving Ammerman's life right now, she said in early October, just weeks after she had moved into Light House.

The drug's withering physical and spiritual toll pushed Ammerman into treatment.

Ammerman, 23, and other Ottawa County residents' struggles represent a new chapter in the county's fight against addiction and a stream of meth that originates in Mexico, migrates north to Dayton and Cincinnati and ends up in Port Clinton.

Battered by her addictions, Ammerman, 23, is trying to break new ground at Port Clinton's Light House Sober Living House.

She said she stayed briefly at a rehab facility in Columbus, but found it "disgusting."

She heard about Light House through Bayshore Counseling Services and filled out an application.

Ammerman has been sober since Sept. 30 and is trying to carve out a new life, free of meth and purged of alcohol.

It's her fifth time trying to stay clean.

"I came here because I wanted that second chance I never took before," Ammerman said, as she sat with her Light House roommate, Alexandria Lowery, 26, of Port Clinton in the organization's recently opened women's home.

Inside his courtroom at the Ottawa County Courthouse, Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters has seen hundreds of drug-related cases since voters elected him to the bench in 2009.

Meth had never been a problem in Ottawa County until this year, Winters said. He has hasn't seen it yet in his drug court, but meth use has shown up with people on bond awaiting trial.

“We didn’t see meth but once or two times a year in Ottawa County,” Winters said.

Winters said the common pleas court drug tests everybody who's out on bond.

The court first started picking up meth use through drug tests in January, although Winters noted it became more prevalent over the summer.

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