Locals voice concerns on opioids at Columbus forum


COLUMBUS — U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Upper Arlington) held a roundtable discussion Thursday in Columbus to discuss the opioid epidemic in Ohio, which has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people already this year. The focus was on the effects of opioid addiction on children and communities.

More than 40 people from different areas of Ohio attended, including several representatives from Clinton County.

Among them were Kathi Spirk, the Director of Job and Family Services (JFS) who also served as moderator, Gina Speaks-Eshler, the Deputy Director of Clinton County JFS, and Jeff Rhein, Director of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services for Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren & Clinton Counties.

The discussion was an open forum which, in certain instances, allowed the participants to tackle subjects specific to their communities.

Spirk set the tone with the discussion of neonatal abstinence syndrome, a series of conditions attributed to newborns exposed to addictive drugs in the womb.

Rep. Stivers said that we have to start by “getting the mothers off drugs before having their babies.”

His concern was with the pressure “addicted” newborns put on the mother as well as the health care workers. He was corrected by Gail A. Bagwell, a pediatric expert at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, however, wanting the participants to understand the difference between addiction and dependency. This clarification opened the door for other people to explore all aspects of the issue.

Aside from the addiction issues which have swept Clinton County in unprecedented numbers, local services are seeing a drop in behavioral health specialists. The epidemic is so widespread and demanding, healthcare professionals struggle to keep up.

“We have lost 60 percent of our workforce between 2015 and ′16,” Speaks-Eshler said. “We’re seeing higher and higher turnover rates.” Combating the opioid problem presents a lack of resources, funding and incentives for the social workers and those working in all the behavioral health fields.

“We also have a problem with time,” she added. “Kids run out of time while in care, their parents relapse and kids then have to leave foster care.” She said extending the time allotted to kids in foster care might serve to make more breakthroughs.

“So in many cases, it comes down to resources,” Rep. Stivers said. “We have to get the right people the right information.”

However, Jeff Rhein said that the solution isn’t as simple as putting one program in place to tackle one aspect of the issue.

“You can’t just have treatment and asylum or treatment and programs,” he said. “You also have to look 10 to 20 years from now.”

The problems differ from county to county. In Madison County, the issue isn’t so much with case workers or the kids directly, it’s more to do with the parents. In 2016, there were 95 instances of overdose cases brought into the ER. As of August 2017, there have already been 111 cases. With overdose numbers going up, time becomes the issue. Communities can’t always rely on federal funding and can’t afford to wait.

“We’ll only see results if Rep. Stivers is open to hearing a wide variety of views,” Dr. Lou Kramer, superintendent of London City Schools added. Stivers wrapped up the meeting by saying that he would take the list of topics back to Washington and focus on getting people the right resources.

“Part of the lack of hope is a lack of economic hope,” Stivers said. “If we can create economic growth, we can eliminate a piece of the problem.”

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A roundtable discussion on Ohio’s opioid epidemic was held Thursday in Columbus. From left are: Gina Speaks-Eshler, Deputy Director Clinton County JFS; Kathi Spirk, discussion moderator and the Director of Clinton County JFS; and Rep. Steve Stivers, Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/08/web1_Stiverspiccol-1.jpgA roundtable discussion on Ohio’s opioid epidemic was held Thursday in Columbus. From left are: Gina Speaks-Eshler, Deputy Director Clinton County JFS; Kathi Spirk, discussion moderator and the Director of Clinton County JFS; and Rep. Steve Stivers, Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. Michael Williamson | For Wilmington News Journal
Clinton Co. professionals at Columbus roundtable

By Michael Williamson

mwilliamson@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.