Communities come together to combat addiction epidemic

The abuse of opioids, methamphetamines, and other prescription drugs have had a devastating impact on communities in Hamilton County. In May, the Downtown Main Library hosted the interactive AntiOD exhibit, opens a new window co-curated by Dr. Claudia B. Rebola and Matt Wizinsky, University of Cincinnati Associate Professors at DAAP. There, visitors were reminded that Ohio has the second-largest rate of overdose deaths in the country. This is in large part due to the current opioid crisis. The exhibit also provided resources to end stigma and overdoses. 

On July 30, we’re continuing this important conversation in partnership with the Hamilton County Heroin Coalitio, opens a new windown and PreventionFIRST!, opens a new window through their grant-funded A Call to Action Community Forum. The first of these forums the Library will host takes place at the Westwood Branch Library at 6:30 p.m. 

“The forum provides a venue to bring all members of a community together to gain a better understanding of the impact of substance abuse disorders and how communities can work together to combat this epidemic,” says Jennifer Bierer, Manager of Environmental Prevention at PreventionFIRST! “A community forum is an opportunity to start conversations and foster partnerships among policymakers, health care systems, businesses, law enforcement, parents, educators, and all members of the community.” 

A Call to Action provides information on four key topics: getting individuals the treatment they need, reducing the harm caused by the epidemic, prevention of opioid misuse, and cutting the supply of opioids. 

Forum presenters include representatives from PreventionFIRST!, Hamilton County Public Health, law enforcement, and substance abuse disorder treatment providers. Their presentations are followed by a question and answer session and large group discussion. 

In recent years, public health officials have made strides in getting communities access to lifesaving naloxone (also known as Narcan®) as well as passing legislation to prevent distribution and disease. 

All first responders in Hamilton County carry naloxone, which is used to treat a narcotic overdose and often saves people’s lives. It is now available for purchase without a prescription at Walgreens, Kroger, and CVS. Policy-driven needle exchange programs and pharmacy drug take-back programs help further the reduction in distribution and harm.  

Currently, the Good Samaritan Law, which was signed into law in 2016, prevents police and prosecutors from pursuing minor drug possession charges against people who call 911 in the event of an overdose. The law also protects the person experiencing an overdose. Due to the fact that people are often fearful of criminal charges when it comes to drug overdose, it’s important for the community to know their rights under the Good Samaritan Law so that lives aren’t lost. 

Another point the forum emphasizes is the importance of understanding addiction as a brain disease. With so many treatment options available like the Recovery Health Access Center, opens a new window and resources like Naranon, opens a new windowNarcotics Anonymous, opens a new window, and SMART, opens a new window, it can be easy to want to blame the individual for struggle and relapse, but it’s the disease that is the actual culprit. 

So how can we prevent opioid addiction in the first place? Forum presenters discuss monitoring the medication you and your family take, asking your prescriber questions, keeping medication in a securely locked box, disposing of unused medication at the local pharmacy or police department, and considering alternative pain management tactics. 

“To solve a public problem like the current opioid epidemic, it is essential to have a comprehensive plan,” says Ann Barnum of Interact for Health. “Such a plan allows everyone to have a voice. Such a plan takes time to develop and committed individuals who are determined to improve the health of their community. Such a plan provides every person in the community with an action step that they can take to make a difference.” 

It is the Library’s hope, and the hope of A Call to Action Community Forum, that these gatherings can be the start of such a plan. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse disorder, call the 24/7 Recovery Health Access Center (RHAC) Hotline at (513) 281-7422 or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, opens a new window national helpline at (1-800-662-HELP).