First responders on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic were recognized Wednesday during a ceremony held at Bossard Memorial Library as part of a week-long appreciation event.
The event was organized by the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services with assistance from Holzer Health System, Bossard Memorial Library and the Gallia County Chamber of Commerce.
Executive Director Robin Harris welcomed those in attendance and personally thanked them for their service, recalling moments she has witnessed the individual efforts of the various agencies, ranging from law enforcement to children’s service workers to mental health workers, as they deal in their own respective ways with the epidemic.
“We know that what you do is difficult emotionally. It’s difficult physically. And most of the time, I think, we’re having days where we feel like we’re not making any headway at all,” said Harris. “And it seems like the numbers are growing. But we also know that thousands of lives have been saved across this state. And there are thousands of people who actually are in recovery, participating in treatment and alive because of people like you and what you’re doing.”
Harris said the Week of Appreciation is an opportunity to tell those frontline workers that their efforts are noticed.
“We notice the late nights. We notice that you’ve missed family events. We’ve noticed that you have seen the hardest of the situations, the most difficult situations and seen the pain on the front line. We’ve seen the children that you’ve had to rescue. You’ve had to bring back people who are in the throes of addiction with the use of Narcan. We realize that many times you’re reviving the same people over and over again,” said Harris, who commented that each rescue is one more chance for a person to choose recovery.
On behalf of Holzer Health System, Morgan Saunders, director of safety and facility operations, spoke about the importance of first responders, calling them the “lifeblood of our communities.”
“We want to be part of that cause and want to help as much as we can. We’re all in on this fight against the opioid epidemic,” said Saunders.
Deputy Director Angela Stowers, who was credited by Harris for organizing the events in the three counties they serve, said they received support at all levels of government in their efforts to recognize first responders with their “Bringing Help, Bringing Hope. Thank you.” campaign. Juli Stephens, field representative for U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson, was also in attendance to read a proclamation and Stowers read proclamations from both Governor John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine. Gallia County Commissioner Harold Montgomery shared the proclamation the County Commissioners passed previously proclaiming April 9th through April 13th as a Week of Appreciation for those who are on the frontlines in Ohio battling against the opioid epidemic.
“From the top down, everyone does recognize and wants to show their appreciation for what’s happening here,” said Stowers.
Stowers also discussed the packets that would be distributed to agencies in the county, which include a letter of appreciation, a provider list, a flash drive from the state with videos of appreciation from those who have been affected by a frontline workers and other information, as well as other items donated by local businesses and organizations.
In addition to the packets, a local initiative to show thanks from those at home was launched last month, when a call to action was released asking members of the community to video a short thank you to first responders. They received 19 submissions, which were combined and burned to a DVD to be distributed to local agencies.
Recognized during the ceremony were:
Also recognized, but not in attendance were:
Centerville Volunteer Fire Department, Crown City Volunteer Fire Department, Gallia County EMS, Gallipolis Volunteer Fire Department, Greenfield Volunteer Fire Department, Harrison Twp. Volunteer Fire Department, Rio Grande Volunteer Fire Department, Springfield Township Volunteer Fire Department and the Rio Grande Police Department.