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Forum: Opioid recovery programs needed in rural Ohio

Zach and Krista Gullufsen relocated from Englewood to Washington Court House to be close to family after frozen pipes burst and flooded their home.

Married since 2011, the husband and wife have battled back from a downward spiral into an addiction to pain pills and are now three years sober. 

"We were addicted to pain medication," Krista said. "It started out very legitimate … We were both prescribed pain medication simultaneously and it just spiraled out of control … It had a death grip on us that's for sure." 

The Gullufsens were among dozens who shared their stories and offered insights during a forum on the opioid crisis, hosted by Your Voice Ohio. 

The two-hour event, one of a series of similar forums being held throughout the state, took place at the Lafayette Room on South Fayette Street in Washington Court House.

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The series of forums is aimed in-part at enabling journalists to make contacts and hear directly from those impacted to inform the narrative about the ongoing problem of substance abuse and addiction to opioids. 

Participants are asked three questions: What does the opioid crisis look like in your community? What are some of the causes? What steps might we take to combat the epidemic? 

During a discussion in her small group, Brenda Campbell, a social worker in Fayette County, agreed with the sentiment that some people are becoming apathetic to the problem, but the opioid crisis is impacting all of us. 

"It costs all of us when they're in jail. It costs all of us when their kids have to go to foster care," she said. 

Campbell said opioid addiction ties up emergency medical services and law enforcement. She said a few years ago she was in the emergency room when one of her parents fell ill when an unconscious man who had overdosed was driven to the ER. 

"She (the driver) came screaming into the waiting area that 'he's dead He's dead,'" Campbell said. "They all went out and drug him out of the car … They gave him at least one shot of Narcan. Maybe two. And he walked out of there before we did." 

Kelly Yates, a counselor who recently moved up from Florida, said more needs to be done to educate youths and to provide outlets for positive, drug- and alcohol-free activities. 

"It's an epidemic here in Washington Court House. It's bad. There's nothing for the youth at all here," said Yates, who said he's heard about syringes being found in the high school bathroom. "This is something that starts with the adults, but it ends up with the youth. And that's where we need to nip it in the bud." 

A common complaint in the room was that there are hardly any resources or treatment facilities in the area, and the programs that are in place often are reserved for those who break the law and are given the treatment option in lieu of jail. 

For Zach and Krista Gullufsen, recovery meant traveling to bigger cities where they said there are more qualified professionals and more out-patient recovery programs available. 

"All the people with the good services, they're all in the metropolitan areas. Rural people don't have access to that," Zach told the crowd. "We need the money to attract those doctors and start those services in the rural areas … You need professionals that know what they're doing and know how to fight this."

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