Melissa Martin

By Melissa Martin – Contributing Columnist

The counties in southern and southeastern Appalachia Ohio addressed the opioid crisis and today positive things continue to happen. The helpers, citizens, and those in recovery deserve recognition.

The Appalachian Ohio region spans from the periphery of Cincinnati to the edge of Cleveland, following the Ohio River. The 32 counties of Ohio’s 88 counties considered Appalachian: Adams, Ashtabula, Athens, Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Clermont, Columbiana, Coshocton, Gallia, Guernsey, Harrison, Highland, Hocking, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mahoning, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Vinton, and Washington.

The Appalachian Regional Commission monitors, compares, sums, and averages the economic status of these 32 counties with three indicators: three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income and poverty rate. National averages are calculated as well for each county in each state and then ranked and designated with levels of economic status: distressed, at-risk, transitional, competitive, or attainment.

The 2018 Levels of Economic Status include Adams, Athens, Meigs, and Scioto as Distressed; Gallia, Jackson, Pike, and Vinton as At-Risk, and Lawrence as Transitional. The economic status is one factor in the complex and multiple causes of the opioid crisis in Appalachia Ohio. Is the Governor and Ohio Attorney General exploring this piece of the drug puzzle? Law enforcement has shut down pill mills. Mike Dewine is filing lawsuits against the drug companies. But, is there a plan for jobs and ways to decrease the unemployment rate in Appalachia Ohio? Recovering people with addictions will need jobs after sobriety. According to a report by the Public Children’s Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO), within 1 year of recovery from opiates, 85% will relapse. Is there a plan for relapse prevention in rural areas? There is more work to be done in Appalachia Ohio.

The 2016 Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio entitled Ohio’s Appalachian Children at a Crossroads: A Roadmap for Action, reported that babies born in Ohio Appalachia “are almost twice as likely as the average Ohio newborn to be diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome” at a rate of 15 babies per 1,000 births. Scioto County reported 76 addicted babies per 1,000 births, Lawrence (67), and Pike (58) and these 3 Appalachian counties “are currently in a state of emergency.” An estimated half of all children in foster care in Ohio are there because one or both of their parents are addicted to drugs.

When you read the newspapers and websites you’ll learn about the Ohio Attorney General’s 12-points of Recovery Ohio Plan to Combat Opioid Epidemic; Lawsuits against the pharmaceutical industry; increased treatment, new tools for law enforcement, and expanding prevention; one million in grants to child welfare agencies to fund staff and help recruit new foster families in hard-hit counties; a Heroin Unit Outreach Team to meet with families and government officials throughout Ohio’s 88 counties; Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Team (Start), a pilot program in 18 southern Ohio counties to increase resources to children services agencies to address recovery for addicted parents and family reunification; and the increased family drug courts to connect parents with treatment in less time.

Your Voice Ohio is a collaborative effort by news organizations across Ohio to provide information about the opioid crisis affect on the health, social, and economic welfare of every county in the state of Ohio. Visit www.yourvoiceohio.org/.

Ohio River Valley Addiction Research Consortium was formed by a group of 16 Appalachian universities focused on drug-addiction research, who host conferences and hope to connect other researchers and institutions.

Gov. Kasich announced the $8 million Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge as a way to discover innovative ideas to fight the drug crisis. Ideas were submitted by researchers, caregivers, service providers and individuals from Ohio, other states and nine countries. And $10 million was awarded in research-and-development grants for opioid addiction studies.

We need to recognize the positive things that continue to happen in the opioid addiction treatment field in the counties of Adams, Athens, Meigs, Gallia, Jackson, Pike, Scioto, Vinton and Lawrence. Kudos to physicians, nurses, hospital staff, emergency responders, counselors, social workers, case workers, police officers, foster caregivers, drug court judges, and all the professional helpers at agencies and organizations involved with helping individuals addicted to drugs, infants born addicted, and the children in foster care. Give them some verbal appreciation. John Holmes wrote “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

Kudos to the county newspapers in southern and southeastern Appalachia Ohio for coverage of the opioid crisis. Well done.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in Scioto County. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.

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