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The Middletown community talked honestly last night about the human costs of the opioid epidemic

About 50 people from the Middletown area and regional journalists spent two hours at the MidPointe Public Library on Monday evening talking about and listening to the impact the opioid epidemic has had on the community in terms of human life and damage to families.

The participants came from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from addicts and parents of addicts to social workers and emergency room nurses.

Monday was the second of a series of Your Voice Ohio forums in southwest Ohio intended to bring residents together to find ways to respond to the opioid crisis, which contributed to a total of 77 overdose deaths in Middletown alone last year. Middletown recorded 966 opioid-related overdoses in 2017, and of those, 798 people received Narcan from city EMS medics.

MORE: The overdose epidemic comes at a massive cost. In Middletown, it’s millions.

Your Voice Ohio is a collaboration of about 30 news media organizations across the state, including the Journal-News, Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News-Sun.

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“The goal today was to try to help journalists, actually, come into closer contact with the people in the community, have an opportunity to sit with a diverse group and and think about what are the competing concerns with the opioid crisis and how do we as journalists best provide people in our community with the information they need at any given moment to try to deal with say family issues or think about public policy issues,’” said Doug Oplinger, project manager with Your Voice Ohio.

Participants were asked what the opioid epidemic looked like in their community; what they saw were the causes of the epidemic; and possible steps to combat the opioid epidemic.

MORE: Is the overdose epidemic on the cusp of improving? Middletown is seeing positive signs

Participants listen to various ideas and comments on how the opioid epidemic has affected the region. About 50 people attended a Your Voice Ohio forum Monday at the MidPointe Public Library in Middletown. Your Voice Ohio is a collaborative of 30 media organizations across the state including the Journal-News. ED RICHTER/STAFF (Staff Writer)

Concerns raised in these small-group discussions included:

• The need for more detoxification and treatment centers in Middletown

• The ripple effect of issues created when young children see their parents or other loved ones overdose on drugs,

• Overcoming the stigma that recovering addicts experience

• The ease of obtaining opioids for pain management

• Increasing public funding for treatment centers and more response teams

• The need to develop more strategies increasing classroom education at all younger grades

• More faith-based involvement

• More media stories of addicts successfully completing their treatment programs

“We don’t have enough detox and treatment centers,” said Kim Carroll of Middletown. “It shouldn’t matter who has titles if this is about helping people. They need to get out into the streets (to reach out to addicts).”

Carroll thought the session “was very educational.”

“Education is the key,” she said. “I’ve learned in life that you’re going to be a talker or a walker. We need to put these words into action.”

Jewell DeFrates and Kim Carroll say the Opioid forum held in Middletown Monday night was effective and they’d like to see more held.

MORE: Middletown council member: Can we stop responding to overdoses?

After Monday’s session, participants felt the session was worthwhile and were willing to attend another session in the future.

“I’m so excited this was available,” said Danette Moore of Middletown, who has two sons who are addicts. “I heard a lot of good ideas to start a platform of coordinated care services for all addicts and families. It also increased community awareness.”

When asked what advice she would give a parent whose child has become addicted, Moore said they need to find out what resources are available.

“You need to understand that you’ll walk a fine line of being an enabler and tough love,” she said. “You’ll also learn that you don’t have control over the situation, even if you wanted to.”

Forums on opioids

Aditional Your Voice Ohio forums are scheduled in other locations in southwest Ohio. The sessions are free to attend, but because of limited seating, people are asked to RSVP online on Eventbrite.com and search for Your Voice Ohio.

East Cincinnati — 6:30 p.m., today, Feb. 13, Madisonville Recreation Center, 5320 Stewart Ave., Cincinnati.

Wilmington — 1 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 18, Wilmington Municipal Building, 69 N. South St.

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