In Butler County, officials promote progress in opioid fight

The Butler County Opiate Task Force held its third public session Monday afternoon on the Miami Hamilton campus in the Wilks Conference Center to support a message of recovery and hope regarding the scourge of heroin and opiate abuse in Butler County.

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Julie Payton, senior director of Addiction Services at Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board, promised the crowd that this was not going to be just another “long talk” about the issue, but rather a list of presenters, including citizens with a loved one impacted by addiction and agencies and law enforcement that are combating the problem on a daily basis.

The data made available to those in attendance helped shed more light on the problem. According to the Ohio Department of Health, of all unintentional drug overdose deaths, the percentage of prescription opioid-related deaths declined for the fifth straight year in 2016, and the number of such deaths declined 15.4 percent from 667 in 2015 to 564 in 2016, the fewest since 2009.

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Opioid prescribing in Ohio declined for a fourth consecutive year in 2016, according to the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy. Between 2012 and 2016, the total number of opioids dispensed to Ohio patients decreased by 162 million doses, or 20.4 percent.

There was a 78.2 percent decrease in the number of people engaged in the practice of “doctor shopping” for controlled substances since 2012.

Butler County Health Commissioner Jenny Bailer said that health trends in the county are showing that overdose deaths are declining and that people are seeking treatment for their addictions. She is hoping Narcan continues to save lives and that treatment and recovery will work.

“We have a lot of Narcan available for the community,” Bailer said. “We thought we would be out right now.”

Middletown police Capt. David Von Bargen talked about the effectiveness of treatment and how Quick Response Teams, like the one in his city and Hamilton, are working as overdose victims find treatment.

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“To date, we have made 377 contacts with those that have overdosed,” Von Bargen said. “Of those, 194 have entered into treatment. We know the program is working and it is getting momentum.”

Jordan Stockelman, 22, from Fairfield, founded the I Love You More than You Know project, which is non-profit effort designed to help send addicts to treatment for their addiction.

“My mother died from her alcohol addiction in 2015, and it was so hard to lose her,” Stockelman said. “I believe that through the years as I went through my mom’s alcohol addiction I got through it for a reason - so I could help other people.”

She added, “we are dedicated to helping promote positive recovery and talk about addiction so society will maybe understand so we can come together and get through this epidemic.”

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Courteney Huff of Beckett Springs, a behavioral hospital offering inpatient and outpatient mental health and addiction treatment, shared with the crowd a video she produced thanking first responders for saving lives with Narcan.

“The documentary was created to thank first responders for saving lives that are worth it,” Huff said. “We know people have this stigma with addicts and the term ‘let them die’ has been floating around forever. This is a way to give a face to addiction and at what point in their lives they wanted to die and they believe that 100 percent. They are not going to get better if people think they are a trash. This is a disease.”

Huff said that “really good friends and some family members” have suffered from drug addictions, and she used to feel like others with a “just don’t do drugs attitude,” but now advocates for treatment and help after seeing how the drug overdose epidemic hit close to home.

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