WKBN 27 First News launches heroin awareness campaign with town hall

The campaign kicked off Wednesday during a special town hall discussion, "27 Investigates: Heroin Crisis - National Problem, Local Solutions"

WKBN 27 First News kicked off a year-long public service campaign with a special town hall discussion Wednesday night - "27 Investigates: Heroin Crisis - National Problem, Local Solutions."

The panel discussion was held during our special report on Wednesday, Nov. 16. The phone line is no longer open but if you are looking for resources or want to talk to a counselor, there is a list of places to turn on WKBN.com.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – WKBN 27 First News kicked off a year-long public service campaign with a special town hall discussion Wednesday night – “27 Investigates: Heroin Crisis – National Problem, Local Solutions.”

It seems like almost every day we’re reporting about heroin in the Youngstown area. Drug addiction is feeding other crimes like home break-ins, and it’s affecting families and killing loved ones.

Heroin is an epidemic that’s affecting every community in our Valley and across the country. That’s why, as a station in this community, WKBN is asking what we can do to help.

The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness about the problem and help come up with solutions.

Panelists who participated in the town hall included:

  • Ohio Lt. Governor Mary Taylor
  • Judge John Durkin – Mahoning Co. Drug Court
  • Dr. Joseph Ohr – Mahoning Co. Coroner’s Office
  • Gloria Mackaly – Mercer County Coalition for Drug Awareness
  • Dr. Michael Lyons – Chiropractor critical of overprescribing of pain medication
  • Brian Williams – Teen Challenge
  • Tim Deemer – Recovering addict
  • April Caraway- Trumbull Mental Health Board
  • Brian McLaughlin – Columbiana Co. Drug Task Force

The panel was seated on the Mineral Ridge High School stage, and First News anchors Mandy Noell and Dave Sess emceed. The audience, along with viewers at home, joined a frank discussion on the heroin crisis.

“It’s not something that you’re happy to do, but it is something you need to shine the spotlight on,” said WKBN General Manager Dave Coy.

Lt. Governor Mary Taylor said drugs are a huge problem across the state, and that there were over 3,000 overdose deaths in Ohio last year. She said the state has been working with the medical community to put prescribing protocols in place.

“I do feel like we’re making progress though, because there were 81 million fewer opiates prescribed last year,” she said.

Once the show started, the discussion focused not only on heroin, but other dangerous drugs in the community and around the country.

“Now it is rare that we’re buying heroin. It’s just straight up fentanyl or even carfentanil,” said Brian McLaughlin, with the Columbiana County Drug Task Force.

Panelists also discussed children of drug addicts and how children’s services keeps them while their parents are going through the drug court.

“At the end of the process after they’ve completed a year to a year and a half of drug screens, sober living, getting their lives back in order, then children’s services will give the kids back,” said April Caraway, with the Trumbull Mental Health Board.

Judge John Durkin said the most striking thing about the heroin epidemic is the age of people coming into drug court.

“I think education is critical,” he said. “There’s still a stigma attached to addiction, so I think it’s so important that we let our children know how dangerous it is to get involved with drugs.”

Tim Deemer was the lone recovering addict on the panel.

“As an addict, you carry a lot of guilt and shame and you feel like no one’s going to forgive me,” he said. “It’s hard to love people when you don’t love yourself.”

When it came to solutions, Gloria Mackaly, with the Mercer County Coalition for Drug Awareness, had a suggestion that some parents might not consider.

“If you need to drug test your children, do it. If you have to snoop through their room and look under the mattress, check things out,” she said.

Addiction counselors were available to take viewers’ calls Wednesday night during the 5:00 and 6:00 newscasts and through the heroin town hall. They helped answer questions and direct people to community resources.

Local treatment centers say they’re seeing anywhere from 50 to 200 people check into their facilities each month.

Counselors say there are many different types of treatment, such as detox, intensive outpatient, residential housing and medicated-assisted. They also say services are available to help inmates in jail recover from addiction.

See all of WKBN 27 First News’ stories on the epidemic in our “Heroin Crisis” section.

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