A group of Clark County service providers have joined together to connect addicts, their friends or relatives with help as the number of overdoses and drug-related deaths continues to strain local resources.
Conversation for Change is a workshop held bi-monthly at the Many Pathways Clubhouse, 50 W. High St., including one last week.
The program is paid for through a $1,000 grant from Wright State University, said Professor Huma Bashir, a Springfield resident. It was replicated from a program in Dayton and has helped more than 50 people in Clark County over the past two years, she said.
“Addiction has always been around, it’s just the substances that change,” Bashir said. “But we’ve never had an influx like we’ve had now with heroin. We have to disseminate. We can’t work in silos.”
The majority of the 79 drug deaths in Clark County last year involved heroin and illicit fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin. There have been 77 suspected drug deaths this year, including 51 confirmed drug deaths, according to the Clark County Coroner’s Office.
As of June 19, local law enforcement has responded to 720 calls for overdoses, including 559 by the Springfield Police Division and 161 by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Last year, local law enforcement agencies responded to 493 overdoses.
The Conversation for Change program wants to educate people about services available in the community, Bashir said, including friends or relatives of addicts.
“It could be someone who comes and might be helping their neighbors,” she said. “That’s the intention.”
It’s a nonjudgmental meeting, Bashir said, where people can speak openly or one-on-one with specialists about their addiction.
“We’re not going to force anyone to be involved,” she said. “It’s a safe place where they can come and have a conversation about it what this looks like, what they need and what the resources are. A lot of times people are so afraid that they don’t know how to get help with the recovery piece.”
The group also discusses barriers to recovery, Bashir said, including insurance options.
“We can contact them afterward and see how we can help them,” she said.
Local providers at the program included treatment facilities McKinley Hall and Mercy REACH, Springfield Regional Medical Center, Rocking Horse Community Health Center and Families of Addicts support group. It also included free Narcan kits and training through the state-sponsored Project Dawn program.
With family and friends affected by the opioid epidemic, Xenia resident Steve Prether didn’t know where to turn for help.
“I’m around people that could be (using),” he said. “One of my friends passed away, ended up in a coma. If there would’ve been a (Narcan kit) nearby, she may have survived.”
Prether — who has been in recovery from opiates for more than 16 years — heard about the Conversation for Change program through the Families of Addicts group, which meets weekly on Tuesdays. He attended last week with his daughter, Brianna.
“I was looking for something like this,” he said. “Even though I’ve been clean for so long, you still need to go back to where you came from. Sometimes, you just think you’re sailing along and an idea pops into your head. You think, ‘Maybe I should go to a meeting.’”
The group will hold three more meetings at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 24, Oct. 26 and Dec. 21. The meetings include free pizza and a $10 Kroger gift card.
It’s the second straight year Wright State has provided grant money for the program, which Bashir hopes will continue next year.
“We see the value in doing this in a continual manner,” Bashir said. “We have to have longevity to see the benefits. It’s so needed for the epidemic.”
SPRINGFIELD’S OPIOID WAR
About this series: Springfield’s Opioid War
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about opioid and heroin problems in Clark County in the past five years, including stories about multiple overdoses in one weekend and efforts to expand treatment options. This year, the News-Sun will take a deep dive into the community’s drug epidemic and what local officials are doing to solve the problem.
BY THE NUMBERS
77: Suspected drug overdose deaths through June 20.
51: Confirmed drug overdose deaths through June 20.
79: Drug overdose deaths in 2016.