BRUNSWICK – Health and safety leaders around Medina County have launched a new initiative they hope can curb the illicit drug epidemic that is sweeping the county.
About 75 representatives from health, education and law enforcement agencies met in Brunswick Feb. 24 to launch a task force aimed at reducing the use of illicit drugs that led to 34 Medina County residents dying last year and 27 overdoses in the first two months of this year.
Phil Titterington, director of the Medina County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board, said a coordinated effort from the various organizations represented at the meeting was needed to turn the tide against a serious problem afflicting county residents.
“Ohio is ranked No. 1 in the country in the rate of deaths from drug overdoses,” Titterington told those attending the task force meeting. “That epidemic doesn’t stop at the border of any county, city of township. It’s a big, complex issue that no individual or agency has the resources to tackle. More work and coordination is needed and I’m asking each of you to consider what you can do to help.”
Health Commissioner Krista Wasowski helped Titterington organize the countywide task force which is expected to replicate some of the things done by the Wadsworth Drug Free Coalition. Wadsworth Safety Director Matt Hiscock said the group was organized in 2014 when it became clear the city was not doing enough to combat a serious drug problem.
City, school, church and civic leaders worked together to start a 24-hour hotline in Wadsworth, distribute biweekly messages on social media, bring in a series of prominent speakers and help attract a new drug treatment facility in the city.
Hiscock said more needs to be done including creating a modified quick response team to help drug victims and their families after an overdose and to establish a detoxification and inpatient care center in the county.
Those attending the task force meeting were assigned to four different subcommittees which they hope can help reduce the growing problem of drug addiction:
• Community treatment accessibility and availability;
• Health, safety and intervention;
• Community education, awareness and prevention;
• Family support and advocacy.
“Our goal was to bring together people committed the addiction problem and coordinating their efforts to make the best use of our resources,” Wasowski said.
Jeff Felton, director of Medina County Job and Family Services, said drug addiction is a scourge that affects much more than law enforcement and medical professionals. “We have to pay attention to the children of addicts,” he said. “We’ve seen an 80 percent increase in the number of children assigned to foster care since 2014 and that’s mostly because of drug problems in the family. We’re also seeing more babies born with addictions because their mothers were users.”
State Rep. Steve Hambley attended the task force meeting and advised those in attendance to pay attention to state funding and what additional resources might to available to combat drug problems in the county.
However, Felton pointed out that Ohio ranks last in the nation for funding children’s services and would still rank last even if it doubled the $45 million it now spends on the issue.
Wasowski invited others who couldn’t attend the meeting to join the effort. Information about the task force will be posted on the ADAMH board web site, www.medinamentalhealth.com, and anyone interested can check there for news about the group’s activities.