Tackling area’s opiate epidemic

A local treatment facility, re-entry programs, a drug court, countywide prescription drop boxes and anonymous tip lines were some of the many goals discussed Wednesday night by community members invested in tackling the area’s opiate epidemic.

More than two dozen interested community members attended a forum hosted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at Marietta Home Health on Pike Street. The goal of the forum was not simply to talk about the problem- which will likely result in more than 1,000 statewide heroin deaths this year-but to form a specific action plan for addressing the local drug abuse problem, said Jennifer Biddinger, the office’s Drug Abuse Awareness Outreach Program coordinator.

“We’ve found that communities really want to fix this problem, but they don’t know how to do it,” she said.

Wednesday’s meeting gathered together recovering drug addicts, family members of addicts, nurses, politicians, law enforcement officers, counselors, judges, educators and others to brainstorm ways to confront the problem in Marietta.

To get the ball rolling, Biddinger shared success stories in other communities such as a mother who had gotten the local high school students to start using a smart phone application for anonymous drug reporting and a woman who had prescription drug drop boxes installed in her community.

Biddinger then challenged attendees to envision Marietta two years into the future and asked them what sort of headline they would like to read in the local paper at that time.

“Heroin deaths zero. Drug addiction levy passes. Two residential treatment homes open. Marietta’s multi-layer approach ends drug abuse,” read some of the suggestions.

Currently, three overdose deaths have been attributed to heroin in Washington County this year, said Washington County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mark Warden.

A multi-layered approach would give the community a way to address drug concerns at every level, said Warden.

“Your first approach is education of the parents, in the schools,” he said.

But for those who fall through the cracks, enforcement, the judicial system, rehabilitation, aftercare and follow-up all need to be in place and working cohesively, he said.

A rehabilitation and treatment center is currently in the works, said David Browne, executive director of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board.

“We’ve applied for a capital grant and we already have a piece of land,” he said.

He did not say Wednesday where the land is.

The residential facility would likely house eight to 10 individuals, but it first has to be approved by the Washington County Commissioners and Browne asked for support when the board goes before them Sept. 3.

“We’ve already had push back, people saying they don’t want it in their neighborhood,” he said.

The stigma of drug use causes people to fight against something that would actually lessen the amount of drugs in the community, he noted.

Now that goals have been created, the plan is for the group to stay connected and plan future projects via email blasts.