We had the talk, now need action on area’s opiate abuse

This week’s community meeting to discuss the rising problem of opiate abuse in the area was a necessary first step in addressing the problem. But the key will be what happens next, and we already see reasons to be concerned.

This week’s gathering of community leaders, health officials, law enforcement and educators was initiated by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. And while we appreciate this state agency taking the lead in initiating a community response, the ultimate success of any community program will fall on local leaders and residents.

We are concerned that before this community plan can even take shape, there already are signs the entire community isn’t on board.

One aspect seen as a necessary component of addressing drug issues is the need for a drug rehabilitation and treatment center. David Browne, executive director of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board, said his agency has applied for a grant to help create a facility and a piece of property already is in hand. But we found it telling that he didn’t specifically say where that property is located, and admitted there already is pushback from residents of the neighborhood.

A home or facility such as this would house about 10 people. It is needed if the community is to effectively help those trying to kick the opiate habit, and yet we already are seeing people resist. The entire community must support these efforts if we are to be successful in eradicating opiate abuse.

A residential facility wasn’t the only goal to come out of the meeting. Others included:

– Establish a local drug court.

– Set up anonymous tip lines to report drug abuse.

– Coordinate re-entry programs for drug offenders.

Browne said he will bring more information about the treatment center to Washington County officials in September. Moving ahead with a rehabilitation and treatment facility will require approval by Washington County Commissioners. We urge Browne to share plans with the community so we can build support of the project, and we urge residents to keep open minds and open hearts. We must be willing to do what it takes to keep opiate addiction from happening in the first place, and when it does, get those people the help they need.