Local driving into the future of recovery

LynAnne Vucovich • Nov 17, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Michael Pack was first on the scene of Ohio’s heroin epidemic to offer relief and support to local communities.

He is a certified interventionist, a national circuit speaker, has worked closely with Gov. Mike DeWine and was the director of the Huron County Peer Recovery Community Center. Recently Pack attended Great Lakes Truck Driving School as part of his ongoing commitment to providing transportation resources to the addiction recovery community.

“We’re trying to make an impact and create opportunities for individuals,” Pack said. “I want to recover our county.”

Great Lakes Truck Driving School offers commercial driver’s license, heavy equipment and oil field safety training. A goal is to help veterans, addicts in recovery and those affected by unemployment to rebuild their lives and careers.

“Ohio is the birthplace of the heroin epidemic and the heartbeat of the nation,” Pack said. “What brought me to Great Lakes is I want to start a non-medical emergency ambulance service.”

Through the Huron County Recovery Coalition, Pack has been transporting the people of the county to addiction treatment for free since 2015.

Great Lakes is one of the top commercial driving schools in the nation.

“Doris and the school help anyone who has a desire to start over or start a new career get off on the right foot and thrive,” he continued. “My dream of owning and operating a transportation company wouldn’t have been possible without Great Lakes.”

Owner of Great Lakes, Doris Young, said the school has up to 90 percent of the students placed upon graduation.

“We usually get 15 to 20 trucking companies here monthly, actively recruiting and offering pre-hire agreements,” Young said. “There’s a serious shortage of drivers right now and with the Trade Readjustment Act, WIOA and Pell Grants, our scholarships, and other aid available someone can rapidly turn this into a financially solid career.”

Young started the trucking school in 2008 and graduates about 450 students annually.

“My son Roger was talking to a graduate recently who had come to us homeless and he was calling us three years later to thank us and let us know he now had $100,000 in his savings account,” Young said. “We’re so happy we can help people rebuild their lives and find success, we’re so blessed.”

Her other son Randy was, unfortunately, one of the tragic victims of the opioid epidemic. After he suffered an accident where he was hit by a car, he became addicted to the pain medication he was prescribed to help manage his injuries.

“We train veterans, unemployed, underemployed and homeless to start a new career,” Young said. “But I’ve always got a soft spot for the addicts seeking help. It’s not their fault and they need someone to believe in them, and Great Lakes can provide that support.”

Ohio’s overdose deaths spiked in 2017, with the crisis showing no signs of abating. A recent Ohio settlement in the ongoing legal battle surrounding the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture opioids ratchets up the pressure on plaintiffs and drug companies to reach a global settlement.

“The economy has rebounded since the housing market collapse and then the heroin epidemic came, Ohio’s showing the nation how to recover now,” Pack said. “The only reason people use drugs is to escape reality. We’ve got to employ and empower our local residents.”

A $260 million late-night settlement between four drug companies and two Ohio counties averted a trial over who is to blame for the opioid crisis, clearing the way for broader talks aimed at resolving thousands of opioid-addiction cases nationwide.

For now, the latest deal will direct $215 million to Ohio’s Cuyahoga and Summit counties from the country’s top drug distributors: McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp. The counties — which encompass the Cleveland and Akron metro areas — also will receive $20 million in cash and the donation of $25 million in addiction-treatment drugs from Israel-based drug manufacturer Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

“Throughout the epidemic, we had three of the top 10 to death overdose capitals. And even though we were the lowest funded state in the nation until this year, we are showing the world how to recover,” Pack said.

“Ohio’s highways and byways can lead you anywhere, and now we’re leading the nation in addiction recovery. I never imagined the top school in the USA would not only train me but provide a scholarship for me as well. I’m forever grateful.”

Pack has placed everyone sent his way into the treatment they needed, he said. He said it should be okay to not be okay.

“We have a lot of towns in this area, I would like to successfully get (addicts) to their counseling appointments, their doctor’s appointments, get them to rehabilitation centers, to detox centers,” Pack said. “As long as somebody’s breathing, you can never give up on them because they have a chance to recover.”

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