YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The opioid crisis is slowing down, but it’s still an evolving problem, according to the Mahoning County Health and Recovery Board.
The number of addicts and overdose deaths in Mahoning County has dropped.
“Mahoning County actually went down in the number of deaths compared to the rest of the state,” said Duane Piccirilli, with the county board of health. “We still had more deaths. We had 113, which, one, is just too many.”
On Wednesday, the board, along with the juvenile court, hosted a discussion to give updates on how the county is tackling the problem.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol was one of the agencies at Wednesday’s opioid summit in Youngstown.
The patrol is on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic, along with all first responders. Lt. Jerad Sutton said the number of felony drug arrests and opioid arrests last year are down from 2016.
“The purpose of the collaboration is to reduce the amount of overdoses and the amount of overdose deaths and the recurrences that we see over and over again of people going to jail, and getting out and the overdosing.”
U.S Representatives Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) provided video messages for the summit regarding statewide efforts to combat the growing problem.
Niki Campana was able to face an officer who arrested her several years ago. She thanked him for starting her path to recovery from drug addiction.
“I’ve been using drugs of some sort since I was like, 12, and then just off and running until I was 33,” Campana said.
She went to treatment almost two dozen times until the fact that she needed to get away from heroin and crack sank in. Campana said that happened, in part, when her children were born addicted to drugs.
“My family hadn’t talked to me for months. You just have this moment of clarity. They say in the program, you say that first honest prayer and it’s just like, ‘God, help me.'”
Campana told her story on Wednesday to show how different departments in the county played a role in her recovery.
Piccirilli said collaboration with county departments has helped. Now when an overdose happens, the sheriff’s office and police departments get recovery counselors involved immediately. Those counselors have also changed how they treat addiction.
“We’re starting to understand the disease for what it is — a primary disease of the brain,” Dr. Joe Sitarik said.
Sitarik and Piccirilli said counselors will often show up to overdose calls to help police. They said getting more involved right off the bat shows the addicts the severity of the problem and that there is a way out. They hope this will help keep drug users from overdosing again.