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Worthington billboard shines light on heroin addiction

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Kehley Shank | Trib Total Media
John Placek and Jessica Smith, the uncle and sister of heroin overdose victim Jeremy King, stand beneath the billboard they have running in Worthington to try to raise awareness about drug overdoses.

Jessica Smith says that, despite his struggles with addiction, her brother always tried to help others.

“He was so selfless, so good hearted. He would do anything to help people,” Smith said of Jeremy King. “Even though he was fighting his own battle and his own demons, that never stopped him from helping people try to get off drugs.”

King died of a heroin overdose Sept. 17 at 35. The Kittanning resident died four days after returning from a trip to Florida. A 1999 Kittanning High School graduate with a degree from WyoTech, King worked as a motorcycle mechanic.

“This is new, this is still fresh,” Smith said. “It’s only been a month and a half.”

Even so, King’s family is trying to help others and keep his memory alive with a digital billboard on Route 422 West in Worthington. The billboard, put up by Smith’s uncle, John Placek, features a photo of King, a stop sign and the words “overdose deaths” and “heroin kills.”

The message has already made an impact, Smith said.

“One lady said her 17-year-old son told her it is the most powerful anti-drug message he’s ever seen,” she said. “That gave me chills. I got tears in my eyes. We are reaching people.”

Placek, who owns Country Spas and Pools, said he will use the billboard that advertises his business for at least the next few months to spread an anti-drug message.

“I’m really serious about what’s going on,” he said. “In my opinion, these people are sick and we, as the clean ones, have to do what we can to help them.”

He is putting out a call to the community for pictures of others who lost their lives to drug overdoses. He wants to add them to the billboard in the hopes that sharing that information will help keep people off drugs or get them off drugs.

“If we can stop one heroin death because of that billboard, then we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “I am prepared to do a memorial like this for anyone whose loved one has died from a drug overdose. My thought is it could save somebody’s life.”

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1315 or [email protected].

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