Task force cites progress in war against addiction
A decade ago, community leaders wouldn’t have met to publicly discuss the progress they were (or weren’t) making on the opioid crisis.
When the Hancock County Opioid and Addictions Task Force was formed in 2010, “nobody really wanted to recognize that there was a problem with opiates,” said John Stanovich, the first chair of the task force, which was originally called the Hancock County Opiate Task Force.
Stanovich was among the speakers Thursday night at “The Opioid Crisis: Where Are We Now?” hosted by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office at Cedar Creek Church.
Back then, the Hancock County Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board, and its executive director, Precia Stuby, knew, he said. Those who were directly affected knew.
It’s no secret now.
Stanovich got a surprise recognition from Findlay Mayor Christina Muryn, Hancock County Commissioner Tim Bechtol, Sheriff Mike Heldman and Zach Thomas, director of wellness and education for the ADAMHS board.
“We have so much to offer here, and we are leaps and bounds beyond other communities,” Muryn said. “A lot of that” is due to Stanovich’s work.
Bechtol read a proclamation declaring Oct. 10 “John Stanovich Day” in Findlay and Hancock County.
Stanovich expressed his appreciation and added that community leaders, first responders and others working on the opioid crisis are “much more deserving than I am.”
Debra Parker, the task force’s current chair and the dean of the University of Findlay College of Pharmacy, said that in addition to helping those with substance abuse issues, “the focus is on expanding services to help that circle of individuals that are around the person battling substance abuse.”
Parker said the task force is also “bringing services to those who have not sought care for whatever reason” such as through the Quick Response Team that visits within 72 hours of an overdose to offer treatment and recovery options.
Hancock County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Kristen Johnson encouraged grandparents or others who are raising children to contact the juvenile court about the Grand program. Kathy Elliott coordinates that program, which assists with paperwork to seek custody and answer other questions.
Besides opiates, methamphetamine and CBD were also discussed.
Meth use is one the rise in Hancock and across the state.
The Hancock METRICH Enforcement Unit seized no meth in 2016, and 195.4 grams of meth in 2017, said Detective Jacob Powell of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and METRICH. The unit still found more heroin that year, but in 2018 it confiscated just 57.1 grams of heroin, versus 2,055 grams of meth.
Other counties in the METRICH task force have also seen an increase in meth, he said.
“This is very high-quality methamphetamine that’s definitely being made in a lab with people that know what they’re doing,” Powell said.
Across Ohio, meth was the most commonly tested drug in BCI labs, according to Carol O’Brien, the state’s deputy attorney general for law enforcement. Very little of it is “home-grown meth,” she said.
O’Brien also discussed two of the office’s new initiatives under Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost: the Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education (SCOPE), which is researching potential genetic factors of addiction; and a task force “charged with identifying and potentially developing innovative prevention techniques and strategies.”
Deborah Berlekamp, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Findlay, talked about CBD, which is found in marijuana and hemp plants and sometimes gets “lumped together” with medical marijuana.
CBD can help with pain, anxiety, inflammation, psychosis and seizures, she said. It doesn’t cause a high — THC is the part of marijuana responsible for that.
She cautioned attendees that CBD, which is legal if derived from hemp, is not federally regulated in over-the-counter products. Labels may be inaccurate, she said.
CBD will not turn into THC in a person’s body, yet THC may be in the product, depending on how it’s made, and could show up in a drug test, Berlekamp said.
The evening ended with stories from four women who are in recovery. Each wore a shirt displaying the number of days she has been sober.
“I have a life I want to live for today. I have family and friends that I want to live for,” said one, Shannon Cooper. “We do recover and we do live happy lives.
“So, yeah, we’re recovering junkies. So?” she asked, to applause.