Dozens of people who are personally impacted by the opioid crisis gathered Sunday in Wilmington to discuss the issue in a unique forum hosted by Your Voice Ohio.
The conversation inside the municipal building on North South Street involved medical professionals, first-responders, parents who have lost children to opioid addiction and recovering addicts, among others.
The next forum in the series is scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Layfayette Room, 133 S. Fayette Street South, in Washington Court House.
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Your Voice Ohio is a collaborative of more than 30 news organizations in the state "trying to figure out how we better represent the people of Ohio and get their issues in front of the public policymakers," said YVO Director and Editor Doug Oplinger.
Oplinger said he is impressed with the Wilmington community, where "there's a sense of ownership" among people who want to find a solution to the opioid crisis.
"We want people first of all to see shared values, shared solutions that they can act on," Oplinger said. "But we also want to help journalists come in contact with their people better and be better representatives of those folks so that there is a bond that develops between journalists and citizens. That they see themselves together as solving problems, as joined in democracy. Sounds a little lofty, but this is what democracy is about."
Robert Eustace, of Beavercreek, who works for a company near Wilmington, said he's been personally touched by the opioid crisis. A family member suffered from addiction and most recently a 20-year-old neighbor died of drug-related causes.
He said he's an advocate of "asset based community development," an integrated approach that brings together volunteers, professionals and those who need help.
"There's something healthy about work," Eustace said.
"You've got all these buildings that need to be torn down. You've got all these people just sitting around … put them into work programs … This is how we can turn this into not only a thing to help them but it becomes self-funding, it builds the community. Like Joseph said, that which a few meant for evil has turned out for good."
Creating programs that are self-sustaining is important, but it's also important to design programs that are "repeatable," said Micah Steele, who is on the front lines fighting the opioid epidemic by working to provide housing and programs for at-risk adults at Nest Recovery Homes in Wilmington.
"If we can design a program that's repeatable so that maybe someone from another city … we can go here you go. Here's the steps to take. Here's the curriculum. Here's the process. Solve the problem in your community," Steele said.
Shane Jones, of Wilmington, said he's a recovering alcoholic. He said he attended the forum because he wants to help other people, an act which he sees as pivotal in staying clean and sober.
Jones said Wilmington has seen better days.
"There's more homeless people here now than when I was growing up. Everywhere you look there's someone riding a bike with a backpack," Jones said. "Wilmington really needs help."
Jones said he hopes the people who attended the forum Sunday now have a better understanding of addiction.
"There's not a relapse left in me," he said. "If people want to get help, they really need to do it before it's too late. The bottom line is if you don't want to get clean and sober, you're not going to do it until you're ready."