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Township officials addressing opiate epidemic

4/20/2017 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

COVENTRY — Coventry officials are hoping to make a difference in the opioid epidemic through the roll out of Coventry Fire Department’s quick response teams (QRT) and by making information about help for drug addicts more readily available.

Officials will discuss the current state of the opiate epidemic and how the teams will help, and offer displays of information about available resources to help addicts from 12 area agencies, April 25 at 6:30 p.m. at Coventry High School, located at 1135 Portage Lakes Drive.

“We are trying to raise awareness about the epidemic and help people learn more about the things they can do to limit the possibility of addiction and the kinds of help that is available in the area,” said Coventry Deputy Fire Chief Adam Rockich. “This event is for everyone willing to listen — a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle or even a friend — who needs information to help an addict.”

Rockich stated the opiate epidemic is hitting Coventry “like everywhere else.”

Dr. Doug Smith, chief clinical officer at the Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health (ADM) Services Board, said preliminary data shows there were 552 overdoses in the township in 2016.

Rockich said the Coventry Fire Department will begin responding to these types of calls with a QRT, modeled on a highly successful program initiated by officials in Colerain Township, located just north of Cincinnati. This team generally includes a paramedic, a law enforcement official and a representative from the ADM Services Board who will visit opiate overdose victims after an overdose.

“We want people to know help is available,” said Rockich of these visits. “We want to be proactive instead of just reactive. The goal is to follow up on overdoses within one week to get these people into rehabilitation and recovery.”

Rockich added that in addition to saving lives, these types of teams can help free up medical units from excessive calls and reduce hospital bills. He stated these efforts represent a “huge paradigm shift” on the opiate epidemic.

“Police and EMS were getting so many overdose calls for a while that we were becoming numb to it,” he said. “This effort puts the focus on helping to prevent overdoses rather than just responding to them.”

At the April 25 community event, other officials will present information about related topics. The schedule of speakers includes:

• Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Joy Malek Oldfield, of the Summit County Training Point Program, which is a 12-month program to help addicts address the underlying causes of drug-related crimes through rehabilitation;

• Travis Bornstein, founder of Breaking Barriers Hope Is Alive, a nonprofit organization to raise awareness about the heroin epidemic and inspire breakthroughs in treating addicts;

• Greg McNeil, founder of Cover2 Resources, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information and resources to parents of opioid-addicted children;

• Coventry Fire Department Chief John Dolensky and Rockich;

• Summit County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Mike Walsh, who serves on the Green QRT and also will serve on the Coventry QRT; and

• Smith, who will serve as a moderator and provide a brief update on the status of QRTs in the county, the relatively nonexistent waiting list for detoxification centers and statistics on the Addiction Help Line.

Also during the event, the Sheriff’s Office will host a collection of unused drugs. Event officials stated this effort is aimed at the safe disposal of all drugs no longer in use and to keep them from being abused.

Organizers said this community event is being presented through the cooperative efforts of the Coventry Township Board of Trustees, Coventry Fire Department and Coventry Local Schools.

The public is invited to attend, and doors will open at 6 p.m.

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