One of the legacies of coal mining’s exit in Appalachia, other than thousands of jobs lost, is hundreds of thousands of acres of land left with the scars of previous mining operations.
CIRCLEVILLE — Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH) brought his fourth annual Opioid Summit to Ohio Christian University Wednesday in an effort to explore solutions to the drug epidemic. Stivers listened to the concerns of community leaders and officials from his 12-county district that includes Athens, Clinton, Fairfield, Fayette, Franklin, Hocking, Madison, Morgan, Perry, Pickaway, Ross and Vinton counties.
“There’s no panacea, there’s no silver bullet here, but what we’re looking for is to create a puzzle where we fill in all the pieces that deals with the drug epidemic in this country,” Stivers said.
The summit was split into four roundtable breakout groups that addressed drug treatment, prevention, housing & employment for recovering addicts, and criminal justice.
The Criminal Justice group was led by Eric Brown, deputy director of Ohio HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area). Representatives from law enforcement, the state legislature, and the legal community discussed how attitudes toward drug offenders have changed over the past several decades.
“We can’t prosecute our way out of this,” said Judge Frederick Moses with Hocking County Municipal Court. “Back in the 1980s it was, lock them up.”
Eric Brown said that the system is in the midst of a much-needed culture change.
“Public safety is coming together with public health,” he said. “We never used to know about preventative treatment. Now we have a better understanding of how we can work together.”
Terri Minney with Ross County’s Heroin Partnership Project said her group has been working with first responders to provide tools that help officers help the addicts they encounter on the streets.
“If an addict approaches an officer and says they want to get off of drugs, we’re providing cheat sheets to post in their cruisers so the officers will have resources to recommend,” Minney said. “We created resource cards for officers to hand out that list detox centers and information about amnesty programs.”
Other positive solutions discussed included the use of Vivitrol for addicts, and implementing drug courts that send low-level drug offenders to treatment instead of jail.
“We have a lot of opiate summits, so how do we judge success?” Eric Brown asked the group. “Reduction in overdose deaths—that’s how we judge success.”
Congressman Stivers visited all four breakout groups to hear the discussions and suggestions.
“That’s the beauty of this for me. I get the value of 100 experts in their own area who give me a to-do list that I walk out of here and try to execute,” he said.