A Portsmouth, Ohio-area psychiatrist who has worked in the opiate epidemic environment in his city for years urged local residents to accept reality when trying to solve Columbus’ current heroin addiction crisis.

The problem isn’t the opiate epidemic, Dr. Kendall Stewart told the 650 people who gathered at The Commons Wednesday night to learn more about what needs to be done to stop the overdoses and deaths that continue to increase in Bartholomew County.

“The problem is the human brain,” said Stewart, who is vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer at Southern Ohio Medical Center, in Portsmouth, one of the cities profiled in author Sam Quinones book about the heroin crisis in America, ” Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.”

Stewart took on the presentation duties on his own Wednesday night at the kick-off community forum designed to provide an overview of this area’s problem with heroin addiction, including continuing overdoses and deaths from opiate use.

Quinones had been scheduled to speak, but suffered a heart attack earlier this week and had been hospitalized, said Columbus Regional Health President and CEO Jim Bickel.

A video of Quinones talking about his book, and the effect of the heroin epidemic on Portsmouth, where Stewart practices as a psychiatrist, was shown before Stewart’s presentation.

For more on this story, see Friday’s Republic.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.