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'We have so many overdoses'

Zoe Greszler • Updated Apr 10, 2017 at 5:39 PM

“Fentanyl is changing the game.”

And Huron County Health Commissioner Tim Hollinger also said it’s time to start looking at a preventative upstream battle, rather than reacting to those drug-related cases that come floating down stream. It’s time for the community to get involved.

At Tuesday’s press conference as part of the State of the State address focused on the local health, the Huron County board of health talked how the community and the health partners can make a difference; it’s going to take more than handing out Narcan.

“We have been so preoccupied as a partnership with the downstream battle that we’re just now getting to the point where we can move into those discussions for the upstream side of it,” Hollinger said.

“I would say probably over the next year that the collaborative will be looking at that (upstream battle) and there are programs out there right now that exist. I don’t think those programs have received as much publicity as they should. We need to focus on going upstream.”

“Fisher-Titus (Medical Center) has the adolescents’ mental health facility here and Fisher-Titus is continually expanding and some of our other mental health providers are doing the same even though the costs are great to do what they’re doing, so I appreciate what they’re doing right now for our community.”

“We have so many overdoses that are happening, but we still have eight strategies that are gong on and the No. 1 strategy is prevention education,” health educator Elaine Barman said.

“We have just not had the funding to go into the schools. It’s not that costly, but it does cost money, and the schools have to be willing. We have to place an emphasis on prevention education specialists. 

“It’s taking that initiative of saying ‘OK, who is that education specialist and how can we work with someone who has a real life story and someone who has this, bring them all together and have them talk with kids?’ One of the biggest misconception is we can give kids a 12-minute video and they’re not ever going to use opiates. That’s just not going to work. We need to recognize that. We have two or three strategies that we’re working on now for that prevention,” she said.

Barman, who will be resigning to move to Iowa with her husband, said the county already has started taking some upstream strides, but more are needed.

“We are going upstream,” she said.

“Everything is preventative if it’s not death. If we get Narcan to people, that’s preventing that death and if you educate people so they know what they’re using, that’s preventing. So then you can go upstream (and further) upstream. Let’s get (people) screened — that’s upstream. Let’s mentor our fifth and sixth graders — that’s upstream too.”

Willard City Schools has begun this process, with good success by implementing a mentoring project for its fifth- and sixth-grade students deemed “at risk.” The district currently has about 60 mentors.

Another easy general aspect of the preventative battle the panel suggested was the use of prescription drop boxes.

New London Local Schools and the Ohio State Highway Patrol began another method — 5 Minutes for Life, an “educational campaign to reduce and ultimately eliminate the demand for illegal drug use among high school students and other young adults,” according to the program’s website.

The program focuses on troopers and state National Guard talking with student-athletes for five minutes before or after a practice about responsible decision-making, leadership and encouraging those in their peer group to live a drug-free lifestyle.

“The piece possibly that the general population doesn’t recognize is how much the stakeholders within the community work with each other right now,” Hollinger said.

“If you have an entire task force in the room today, you would hear programs they’re working on and again we just gave a brief overview of the downstream. You’re starting to hear some of the upstream pieces. That’s the direction we need to go.”

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