opiate crisis

First responders thanked for bringing help to addicts, hope to community

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News First responders on the streets and in hospitals were thanked recently for bringing help to opiate addicts and hope to the community. Police, fire and EMS personnel gathered in the Wood County Courthouse atrium to receive the gratitude of local officials who realize the difference they make to many who are addicted to opiates, and their families. True to form, the first responders present shunned the spotlight – preferring to be in the background while others talked. “Not often enough do we take time out for the people who deal with it every day,” said Chris Streidl, interim director of Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services. He pointed out the frequent efforts made to revive opiate addicts, so they can have another chance at life. “They bring help to those who need it. They bring hope to the community,” Streidl said. The roles of first responders continue to change – with more frequent and serious demands being placed on them. Marc Jensen, vice chair of the ADAMHS Board, talked about being a first responder for seven years. “You’re never trained enough. Every situation is different. Every situation is frightening. Every situation is soul-searing,” Jensen said. “But you keep doing it because it’s your duty.” The community needs to support those first responders, who are often hit by the severity of the situation hours after they return from the scene, he said. “Please give them your undying support and admiration,” Jensen said. Police, fire and EMS thanked for their efforts. The Wood County Commissioners also offered their support, including Craig LaHote, who was a volunteer firefighter and EMT for years. “It’s amazing to me how much the landscape has changed,” he said, noting all the new training requirements and difficult challenges. “We really appreciate all the first responders.” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw talked about the commitment of first responders – even when they aren’t on duty. “We want to thank first responders for always being there, even when you’re not in your uniform,” she said. “We know that you’re there for us. We are glad we have people willing to do that.” And Commissioner Ted Bowlus talked about the first responders putting themselves at risk when responding to calls, especially with extremely potent versions of opiates. “The first responders are putting the welfare of the patients ahead of themselves,” he said. Wood…


State Issue 1 drug law proposal faces strong opposition

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Drug offenders in Ohio currently encounter the carrot and the stick. If they participate in treatment and comply with the courts’ orders, they can often avoid jail time. State Issue 1 would only offer the carrot – and take away the stick. That just won’t work, according to local judges, the county prosecutor, sheriffs and state legislators. On Thursday, some of that local opposition to Issue 1 gathered in the Wood County Courthouse atrium. On the surface, Issue 1 may look harmless. It downgrades the vast majority of drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. And it promises to move money saved by not incarcerating drug offenders into drug treatment programs. Proponents of the issue, which will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, are massively outspending opposition, according to State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green. As of a month ago, Issue 1 had raised $4.1 million, with much of that being money from outside Ohio, he said. Meanwhile, there was no organized opposition to the issue. Issue 1 – which would change the state constitution – was not getting much attention until recently, Gardner said. So Gardner and State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, asked local law enforcement and court officials to join them Thursday to express their concerns. “Our courts are on the front lines for this,” Gavarone said. As officials took their turn at the podium, they were unanimous in their opposition to Issue 1. Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson talked about the newly created ARC program, which is currently working with 70 opiate addicts in the county. The program is having such success because it is able to offer addicts intervention in lieu of jail time. If jail time was not an option, it is unlikely that many of those addicts would go through the difficult treatment process. “Almost all of those efforts will be negated by State Issue 1,” Dobson said. Issue 1 would remove drug offenses from the criminal justice process, to be treated solely by the behavioral health process. It’s a mistake to not include both processes for drug addicts, he said. Dobson has heard from many addicts who seek treatment only because a judge has told them it’s either treatment or jail. Gardner said he has heard the same stories from addicts who don’t seek treatment until they hit rock bottom – which is the…


Drug & alcohol abuse prevention trumps politics in D.C.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Preventing drug and alcohol abuse is not a political issue. Milan Karna saw that firsthand this week as he attended a roundtable discussion hosted by President Donald Trump at the White House. Karna, coordinator of the Wood County Prevention Coalition, was asked to attend the 20-year anniversary of the Office of the National Drug Control Policy’s Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant awards in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Karna was one of six grant recipients present from the 731 programs in the nation. The programs – which work to prevent drug and alcohol abuse by youth – were awarded $90.9 million. The Wood County Prevention Coalition’s piece of the pie was $125,000. This is the fifth year for the local coalition to receive federal funding. “The coalition is neutral,” Karna said. “It’s public service for the betterment of the entire community.” Karna was gratified that the current administration appeared to understand the value of the prevention programs. “I understand people have different feelings about different political figures,” Karna said. Both Ohio senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman have been long-time supporters of funding the programs – but the support of the administration was unproven. “It was encouraging to hear this administration has agreed to allow this program to continue,” Karna said. During the roundtable discussion, youths from some of the prevention coalitions spoke of the reasons behind their commitment to the cause. President Donald Trump shared his personal story of his brother’s alcohol addiction. “He seemed very sincere,” Karna said. “I could sense that he was personally affected.” Karna has his own personal story that spurs his efforts to prevent drug and alcohol abuse. Karna’s father had issues with alcohol and tobacco. He was able to quit drinking – but had a much tougher time with smoking – even after undergoing a quintuple bypass. “He was asking my brother and me for cigarettes,” shortly after the surgery, Karna said. His father, who grew up in Yugoslavia, started smoking at age 5. He died in 2012 at age 72. “I think that’s something that drives me,” Karna said. It’s a motivator for many. “I think this is an issue a lot of people care about. There is a lot of grief and energy to do something,” Karna said. That may be why the issue has the ability to cross political lines. “Prevention is something…


Opiate addicts find lifeline in local ARC program

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Fighting the opioid crisis can be like aiming at a moving target. Drugs get more potent, people are prone to relapse, and some proposed laws work against success. But it appears that Wood County’s Addiction Response Collaborative is having an impact. “We’re making inroads,” Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson told the county commissioners Tuesday morning. In the six months that the ARC has been up and running, the program has been alerted to 80 individuals who have overdosed. “Some of those have overdosed multiple times,” Dobson said. Of those 80, five died. While tragic, that number is far less than the 16 people who died of opiate overdoses in 2016 in Wood County. The ARC team, made up of Belinda Brooks and Det. Sgt. Ryan Richards, had contact with the 75 addicts who overdosed, three of whom refused help. Of the addicts, 55 cases were referred to ARC by law enforcement officers, and 22 were referred by family members. “Those are great numbers,” Dobson said of those referred by family. That means the word is getting out to more than just law enforcement. “I was pleasantly surprised. People are contacting the program.” Of those working with the ARC program, four overdosed a second time and are currently in treatment. “That’s a great number when you’re talking about 75 people.” The ARC Quick Response Team responds to overdose incidents and other addiction-related incidents and calls. The team initiates a conversation with the survivor and family members. The goal is to encourage and offer assistance in obtaining treatment and counseling through multiple local behavioral health providers. During the past six months, Brooks and Richards have made 611 contacts with the 75 addicts – following up with them, encouraging them, looking for any gaps in the services, Dobson said. In addition to the Quick Response Team, the program works with programs in the court system, including a diversion program, analyzing the current intervention process being used by the court and the implementation of a court docket specific to addiction. Initially, some of the law enforcement offices in the county were suspect of working with the ARC. “There was more law enforcement resistance,” Dobson said. Some police agencies feared the ARC would take over cases. “That’s not our intention. We step in with ‘What can we do to help?’” In fact, Richards often shares information…


More levy funds sought for opiate, mental health services

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Tom Clemons would love to not have to ask Wood County voters for more money. But then he would also love if the opiate crisis weren’t killing people, and if the state and federal government would not have cut funding. So on Tuesday, Clemons, the executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, made his pitch to the county commissioners for the agency’s levy request. The board will be seeking a replacement 1-mill levy plus and an additional 0.3-mill levy. The levies will be on the November ballot. Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said that the commissioners will have to discuss the levy requests before deciding whether or not they will get their blessing as the levies go on the ballot. “We listened to what he had to say,” she said of Clemons’ presentation. “We’re still at the point where we’re absorbing what he had to say. We’ll be discussing it. We want to make sure it is the right fit for Wood County and for the ADAMHS board. The current 1-mill levy generates about $2.9 million. The new levies will bring in an additional $1.3 million. Clemons said the additional funding is needed to keep up with growing needs. “First and foremost, we think the opiate epidemic is costing us a little over $700,000 a year,” Clemons said last week. The costs include inpatient and outpatient detox services, recovery housing, clinical services for the Vivitrol program in jail, services for addicted women who are pregnant, help with the Addiction Response Collaboration, short-term residential treatment, help providing medication like Naloxone, outpatient programs, and school-based prevention programs. “It’s touching everyone,” Julie Launstein, ADAMHS finance director, said of the opiate crisis. But it appears that Wood County’s opiate programs are working according to Chris Streidl, manager of clinical programs with ADAMHS, who explained that this county has a significantly lower death rate than those being seen in Lucas and Hancock counties. “We see the numbers,” Clemons said. “This epidemic is not going to go away any time in the near future.” At the same time as the opiate crisis, the ADAMHS board still needs to deal with other mental health, alcohol and drug addiction issues. “We’re going to have to look at doing some more mental health housing,” Clemons said. That will include more 24/7 supervised housing and more…


First responders honored for giving opiate addicts second, third and more chances

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Those being honored Monday in the war against opiate abuse weren’t front and center. As usual, they were gathered far from the podium. “The first responders are all in the back of the room,” Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson said. “Frankly that’s where they would prefer to be. They would much rather be out doing their jobs.” Those are the jobs they were being honored for on Monday – saving people from opiate overdoses. “They step into circumstances that we can’t imagine,” Dobson said. “They stand between us and danger in a very real sense on a daily basis.” EMS and law enforcement are being recognized across Ohio this week for saving people who overdose on opiates. In the Wood County Courthouse Atrium, the first responders were thanked by the second and third responders in the opiate crisis. To show appreciation in Wood County, that meant lunches will be delivered to fire and police stations throughout the week by Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “This is basically to say ‘thank you.’ We know it’s difficult work,” said Milan Karna, with the Wood County Prevention Coalition. A video was played, showing people who had been saved by first responders using narcan to revive them after overdoses. The faces thanked the first responders for not giving up on them – even if they had to respond to the same person for multiple overdoses. Tom Clemons, WCADAMHS director, used Dobson’s terminology of this war on opiates creating “refugees” in need of care. “It takes all of us working together on this,” Clemons said. On the front lines of this war are EMS, law enforcement, children’s services, and hospitals. “It is a widely recognized fact that a lot of first responders are putting themselves at risk,” with fentanyl being very dangerous to those treating overdose victims. But the use of narcan is giving opiate addicts another chance at life, Clemons said. “We’re seeing more and more people’s lives saved,” he said. “That’s where recovery begins. Treatment does work and people recover.” Evidence of that is seen with the county’s new Addiction Response Collaboration program through Dobson’s office. Since its inception about four months ago, the program has worked with 35 opiate addicts in Wood County. Of those, seven people have been sober for three…