Sixty Medina County community leaders gather Tuesday for a lunch conversation and goal- setting session regarding drug abuse of heroin and opiates. The 90-minute session was at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in the Mother Teresa Room, 929 Pearl Road, Brunswick, and led by the Rev. Bob Stec of St. Ambrose.
HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE Enlarge
Leaders from treatment centers, law enforcement, social agencies, nonprofits, schools and religious circles in Medina County talked Tuesday about setting goals to raise awareness and address drug addiction and abuse.
“We all know the problem,” the Rev. Bob Stec of St. Ambrose Catholic Parish. “It’s now a matter of what are the steps we can take to move forward? How will we work together?”
Sixty members of the Northeast Ohio Greater Than Heroin collective of met for a 90-minute lunch conversation Tuesday at St. Ambrose in Brunswick.
“The goal is to get the conversation going beyond this room and get a broader focus to the community at large,” said Mark Trew, CEO of Alternative Paths, a behavioral service agency, in Medina.
Brunswick Schools spokeswoman Amy Rutledge told the group she included resources in the schools’ winter newsletter that gets distributed to parents and is posted online for the community to view.
“We need more communication, specifically within the news, of what’s going on in our community,” Rutledge said.
“People pay more attention when it’s in Brunswick or Medina County.”
“We need to make sure the resources that are available are communicated and increase awareness to do what we can to make sure we have those resources,” Trew said.
Efforts have included the Medina County Jail recently opening up a wing for drug convictions; programs at churches, coalitions and organizations; and the expansion of treatment and other resources for the public.
Sheriff Tom Miller said the epidemic stretches beyond the reach of law enforcement.
“This is not just a law enforcement problem, it’s a collective problem,” he said. “The key is for the community to work together to resolve community issues, help provide services and ways to address the problem.”
Miller and other participants agreed that part of the problem is the stigma behind the epidemic and the fear of people who want to seek help without getting in trouble.
“It’s a disease. We need to work together as a community to reduce the stigma of addiction,” he said. “We need to get people to understand that and work collectively together to help.”
Representatives from Medina County Job and Family Services shared how the epidemic not only affects the user, but the family and friends who surround them.
Children services manager Sharon Holmes said the agency has seen the number of children in custody double over the last two years.
One of the contributing factors, agency director Jeff Felton said, is the heroin and opiate epidemic. Of the 65 children in their care, 75 percent come from drug-related cases.
“Children are affected directly,” he said. “We can’t lose sight of them. We have to be mindful of our children.”
Because parents can be deeply involved in the epidemic, one tangible goal would be to increase awareness of the need of foster homes for affected children.
“We’re working closely with relatives to change foster care options so kids aren’t removed completely from their family,” Holmes said.
Ben West, Medina services manager for the Rape and Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties, shared how early-prevention programs could be beneficial to drug users who may have experienced trauma as a child that plays a role in their addiction.
“The number of people addicted to drugs or substance abuse and had some type of trauma as a child … that number is staggering,” West said. “For someone who has so much pain inside and drugs are an option to make it stop, saying no isn’t powerful enough. My concern (with the epidemic) is we need to stop the bleeding and stitch it up. Prevention is huge.”
Stec, who led the conversation Tuesday, said he was pleased with the exchange of ideas.
“There are three key points that really energize me about this topic,” Stec said. “First, the responsiveness of people here today … it’s a huge step in the right direction. Second, the ideas, interests and ownership people have to tackle the crisis. And most importantly, together we are stronger than the crisis. … We will get to a better place.”
The group is scheduled to meet again 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 22 in the Mother Theresa Room at St. Ambrose Catholic Parish, 929 Pearl Road. Reservations are required. Contact Jake Bihari at (216) 215-5015 or email Jake@TheFEST.us.
“The more we get together, every step forward is a great step,” Stec said. “This project plan develops steps towards the path to great resources that are already available out there.”
Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.