MOUNT GILEAD — Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, isn’t a newcomer in the fight against opioid addiction.
“I’ve been at this 25 years. We need to do better at prevention and treatment,” Portman said Wednesday at a roundtable discussion hosted by Maryhaven rehabilitation center.
About a dozen people participated, including the Morrow County Opiate Engagement Team, local law enforcement, health and EMS professionals and two recovering addicts.
Portman recently helped secure a $2 million federal grant to combat the opioid crisis. Federal funding is used locally to fight the drug epidemic with the peer support program and medically assisted treatment.
“We need everyone here to be involved,” said Deanna Brant, executive director at Delaware-Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.
Brant talked about the rapid response team’s efforts to get people help immediately.
“We long since figured out when people come to us and need help we can’t say, ‘Here’s a card. Come back in a week, 10 days, two weeks.’ We need to engage people instantly. There are three levels of the time element — urgent, divergent, routine.”
“Ohio has been hit harder than any state and Morrow County has been hit as hard as most counties in the state,” Portman said of the drug epidemic.
A young woman told her story of addiction and recovery.
“Everyone’s rock bottom is different. I hit rock bottom when I lost my family,” she said.
She credited her grandparents and her sister for getting her help. She has been clean since May 2016, is attending school and is married with three daughters.
“I’m grateful I am where I’m at,” she said. “It was a rocky road. I had a really good counselor at Maryhaven and my probation officer helped me a lot.”
A man related his long battle with alcohol and depression. Today he’s helping others through peer recovery.
Morrow County Sheriff’s Deputy Doug Mullett is part of the rapid response team.
“I try to follow up in 24 to 48 hours with those who have overdosed and refer them to treatment,” he said.
Mullett said a uniformed deputy assists county EMS squads when an overdose occurs.
“I try to get them to trust me. I have Maryhaven’s number on the back of my business card,” Mullett said.
Several mentioned the difficulty involved in sharing information due to privacy laws known as HIPPA. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996 prohibits sharing of protected health information.
Sheriff John Hinton said heroin isn’t the biggest challenge.
“Meth is an issue in this county. We see more meth than we do heroin,” he said.
Law enforcement officials cite drug use as a primary reason for property crimes as addicts seek money or items to sell to satisfy their habit.
EMS personnel talked about the cost of Narcan being $40 per dose for them to purchase as opposed to it being less expensive for others to buy.
Richard Steele, clinical supervisor for Maryhaven, said treatment is available for those wanting it. “We have a lot of services for a small county,” he said.
The prevention piece can’t start early enough, according to Pamela Butler, health commissioner for the Morrow County Health District.
“Middle school is too late. They’re already seeing it in the home in some cases. We better educate them. It’s touching everyone,” Butler said.
Portman thanked the group for its efforts, saying, “You are all on the front lines in this.”
Maryhaven is central Ohio’s oldest and most comprehensive treatment center, helping people and families dealing with addiction and mental illness. You can reach them at 419-946-6873.