Among the topics discussed at Wednesday’s Highland County Board of Commissioners meeting was the prevalence of opiate addiction everywhere.
Commission board president Shane Wilkin said he recently attended the 2016 Opiate Conference in Columbus, as did FRS’s Joe Adray who was also at Wednesday’s meeting.
Wilkin said the opiate problem is “pretty rampant” throughout the state. An example given at the conference, he said, were the results of a pilot program in Ross County. He said that for every person in that county over a year’s time, there were enough opiate prescriptions written to provide 100 prescriptions per person.
At the gathering Wilkin said he learned about what some other counties are doing to combat the problem. One of those was Clermont County devoting a wing of its jail for a program whereby qualifying offenders can volunteer to be housed and receive counseling.
He said he has spoken some on the matter to Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss who expressed interest in learning more about the program.
Wilkin said he’s heard questions about why the opiate problem is so bad in Highland County, and he said he has learned, “It’s bad everywhere.”
Adray said to Highland County, the issue feels like it a local problem, but he said when you look at the whole picture the county is clearly not alone on dealing with the issue.
He said he viewed a map from about 12 years ago where the problem areas were highlighted. In that year there were three or four spots, he said. By 2011 there were all but two of Ohio’s counties highlighted on that map, and all 88 counties by 2012.
“It isn’t localized. It isn’t just us,” Adray said.
He said there are a number of groups, like the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition and others, trying to figure out how to combat opiate addiction, but that “there’s no one answer that is going to change the epidemic.”
It is a problem with “no easy fix,” he said, and something that will take some time to make better.
Adray said that at the same time eight people were brutally murdered in Pike County last month, six people in another Ohio town died from overdoses in a 24 hour period, but that was something the people didn’t hear about. The deaths were attributed to “bad heroin,” he said.
Each year in Ohio, Adray said 2,500 people die due to opiate overdose. And he said a “significant amount” of those with opiate addiction started on that road through an opiate prescription. He said the brain doesn’t know the difference between a prescription opiate and heroin.
Wilkin spoke again about the conference attended by himself and Adray, noting that it was “interesting the different approaches” being taken throughout the state to fight the opiate problems communities face.
“There’s going to have to be some different strategies to combat this,” Wilkin said, because “locking them up” is not working.
On another matter, Adray and Board of DD Superintendent Debra Buccilla told commissioners that the Board of DD would be assuming the service coordinator component of Help Me Grow beginning July 1.
FRS took over the administration of Help Me Grow in 2015. But Adray said that the Board of DD is better equipped to administer the service coordinator component because the Board of DD has therapists in place and “can provide a better service.”
“I think … it will be a better service with more options,” Adray said.
Buccilla said that board members agreed at the Board of DD’s April meeting. “We feel it’s an excellent fit,” she said.
The Highland County Board of Commissioners meets each Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. on the second floor of the county administration building, 119 Governor Foraker Pl., Hillsboro. The meetings are open to the public.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.