WCBE

Local Health Officials Meet To Try And Combat Opioid Crisis

Mar 23, 2017

Franklin County officials Wednesday hosted a summit on the opiate crisis, which shows no signs of letting up in central Ohio or elsewhere.

Mike Foley reports.

Health officials say nearly two residents per day die from opiate-related overdoses in Franklin County.  Columbus emergency departments have seen a doubling of overdose cases.  Columbus Health Commissioner Doctor Teresa Long says the epidemic requires multiple approaches.

“It really starts early on with prevention, public education, and treatment. We’ve just had at this summit an overview of what Baltimore has done. Baltimore, despite some very strong and coordinated work, just saw a 65% increase in their number of deaths from 2015 and 2016, which means this is a challenge that won’t be quickly won.  But we do know the issues around naloxone and making naloxone available is really important to save a life.”

Long says it’s also important to understand that addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that can strike anyone.  She says there’s an effort to make it as easy as possible to get treatment. And while Columbus police, fire and EMS crews are equipped with naloxone, Long says the city will consider Baltimore’s approach.

“The keynote speaker from Baltimore just highlighted some of their work around naloxone, and actually having the entire city work force become trained - at least the frontline staff, people in recreation centers being trained to administer naloxone and to become trainers themselves. That actually, we haven’t thought about. We have it available at our workplace, but to think about how we expand that.”

Law enforcement officials are working on some new action plans too. Franklin County Chief Deputy Sheriff Rick Minerd chairs the legislative and law enforcement committee for the county’s Opiate Crisis Task Force.

“We are looking at expanding the newly-created HOPE task force, an initiative that we launched last year whereby law enforcement partners with non-traditional people. What we do is we respond out in the community. We’re not necessarily saying we’re not going to arrest anybody, but we’re going to change our focus on arresting the folks that are capitalizing on addiction. But while we’re interacting with the general public who are suffering from addiction, we’re also partnering with folks in the community to link not only the folks suffering from addiction to services but also their families.”

King Stumpp serves as president and CEO of Netcare Access, a 24-hour crisis center for mental health and addiction services. Stumpp says a new online chat version of the hotline has been successful so far.

“The chat line went live on the Netcare website February 15th. We’ve had over 130 chats. It went live on the ADAMH website March 15th. You’ll see a widget that says Chat Now. You can click on it and engage in an online chat in real time with our licensed clinicians. If the situation evolves through the chat, we may encourage folks to call in or come in to our services as a walk in.”

Franklin County officials will use the summit to revise its action plan and add more members to its task force, created last year. There’s a naloxone community training session scheduled for April 4th at St. John’s Lutheran church in Grove City