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Prescription drugs can be gripping

Opiate addiction

rising in Clark County

Wendy Doolittle, chief executive officer at McKinley Hall Inc. in Springfield, has seen a dramatic shift in drug addiction in the nearly two decades she has worked at the treatment facility.

“We had 39 overdose deaths in Clark County last year, and most of them were opiate deaths,” Doolittle said. “We used to serve maybe 20 percent, at best, opiate addicts, and last year it comprised 80 percent of the addicts we treated.”

Addressing the problem is difficult because the substance abuse treatment services offered by McKinley are short-term, she said.

“The way our system works, once their treatment is done they have to be discharged,” Doolittle said. “You go in for 30, 60 or 90 days, then you’re right back out on your own trying to manage a difficult and often unstable situation.

“Until we begin to treat substance abuse as a disease and a chronic illness, we’re not going to see much improvement,” she said.

To that end, the treatment facility recently established residency recovery housing, where people can stay for up to a year after their treatment ends.

“They have structure, and they have support in a more stable environment,” Doolittle said. “It just gives them a better opportunity to maintain their abstinence once they’re out there and on their own again.”

— Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

Sheriff: Addicts come

from all walks of life

Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly doesn’t have to think hard to point to which communities have prescription pill and heroin problems.

“It’s epidemic,” Kelly said. “From South Charleston to New Carlisle, to Catawba to Tremont City and certainly in the city of Springfield. It’s everywhere. It’s cheap. It’s powerful.”

Kelly said prescription overdose deaths were the No. 1 cause of death in Ohio last year, but he said that little victories are happening. He pointed to a recent report that a dentist checked into a potential patient who wanted prescription drugs and found that she had been getting them from several doctors.

“Because, in Ohio, we’ve done a great job of working with the pharmacies and the pharmaceutical board trying to tighten up pill mills, heroin is cheap, it’s plentiful and so people are turning from prescription medications — which was killing record numbers — to now heroin.”

Kelly said the opiate addict is hard to classify since users come from all walks of life.

“It’s not a one-population problem,” Kelly said. “It’s equally spread across the entire array of communities here in Clark County … and everywhere.”

Kelly said his office is working with the R.A.N.G.E task force and Drug Enforcement Agency and educating people from school students to those being released from prison and jail. Kelly said people needing money are the cause of the break-ins in the county for scrap metal, purses in cars, cigarettes and even lawn mowers being taken to be resold for $25.

“We’re trying education, enforcement, we’re trying community outreach, we’re trying everything we can to try and reach people,” said Kelly. “Sometimes people need to get caught so they can get the help they need and figure some things out. Because if they stay in their current behavior, they’re going to end up a statistic that they don’t want to be.”

— Mark Gokavi, Staff Writer

Not all overdose patients

thankful for emergency help

Capt. Brian Wirth of the Springfield Fire Dept. and other medics respond to overdose calls where the people are blue, barely breathing and have a pain patch stuffed between their cheek and gum. Medics may administer Narcan, which immediately reverses the effects of opiates and usually wakes them up.

For their trouble, some of the overdose patients cuss out the medics.

“Many times, they’re upset with you because you’ve taken away their high that they paid for,” Wirth said.”Many times, they’re in denial that they ever took any type of drug to begin with.”

Wirth said some patients are appreciative and some are people you wouldn’t expect.

“It’s all the way from the middle school kids to the affluent, housewife soccer moms,” he said. “Prescription drug pain medication is becoming prevalent throughout our society.”

Wirth said he cantell when a new shipment of heroin comes to town because they’ll get a huge influx of overdoses.

Wirth said his department responds to nearly 200 drug overdoses per year and that is a drain on their resources, but the Narcan helps with narcotic overdoses and undoubtedly saves many lives.

— Mark Gokavi, Staff Writer

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