Opioid crisis: What can be done to protect kids?


COLUMBUS — Representative Steve Stivers held a roundtable discussion Thursday in Columbus to discuss the opioid epidemic in Ohio, which has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people already this year. The focus of the meeting was on the affects of opioid addiction on children and communities.

More than 40 participants from different areas of the state attended the meeting, including Madison County Health Commissioner Chris Cooke, and London City Schools Superintendent Dr. Lou Kramer as well as educators and health care workers from Clinton and Fayette Counties.

The discussion was done in an open forum which, in certain instances, allowed the participants to have a true conversation. The severity was set right at the start with the discussion of Neonatal abstinence syndrome, a series of conditions attributed to newborns exposed to addictive drugs in the womb.

Rep. Stivers said that we have to start by, “getting the mothers off drugs before having their babies.” His concern was with the pressure “addicted” newborns immediately put on the mother as well as the health care workers. He was corrected by Gail A. Bagwell, a pediatric expert at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, however, wanting the participants to understand the difference between addiction and dependency. This clarification opened the door for other people to explore all aspects of the issue.

“I always go into these types of discussions hopeful and with two things in mind,” Chris Cooke said. “First, I look for what I call ‘fast track ideas’ that the congressman could tackle easily and second, what we could put into the education system to make it better.”

The issue raised by a number of people at the meeting, however, was that the cause for opioid addiction can vary so severely. Which means the treatment for it will most likely be as varied. For Cooke, one way of making progress is to combine any healthcare resources directly with the school programs.

“In Madison County, we have a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC),” Cooke added. The centers provide preventive health services in the areas of primary care, mental and dental health. “If we can we create the capacities like this and deliver them to the schools, it would be beneficial to the community.”

Rep. Stivers mentioned that the programs implemented in Cincinnati schools such as “Keys to Success,” a program which incentivizes students to perform well, and other drug-free and incentivized programs might be something for communities to do in the short term.

“We have to get the right information to the right people,” Stivers said. This combined with federal health care aid would provide a structure and federal money toward programs such as this was one of his key takeaways.

However, aid from the federal level will only help so much. “We have to continue to come up with strategies on the local level if we are to truly be effective,” Cooke said.

Madison County has used EpiCenter, a data system used in health care to track the health of a community, to look at opioid-related issues happening in the county. In 2016, there were 95 instances of overdose cases brought into the ER. As of August 2017, there have already been 111 cases.

Locally, there have been two steps taken to combat this problem. First, the Madison County Substance Abuse Coalition, which meets every couple of months, and Community Health Improvement Plan. Cooke and Dr. Kramer are both involved in these programs.

“These roundtable meetings and discussions are very helpful when assessing how to tackle these problems,” Dr. Kramer said. His approach to the meeting was to reflect on the variety of disciplines represented at the discussion. For him, seeing what the issues are in specific counties and what they do to handle it can be shared and implemented into this community. Likewise, what Madison County does can potentially benefit other communities.

“We’ll only see results if Rep. Stivers is open to hearing a wide variety of views,” Dr. Kramer added. “But if we want to help Madison County, we have to start here first.”

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Madison and Fayette County members sitting in on opioid roundtable with Rep. Steve Stivers on Thursday in Columbus. From left are: Chris Cooke, Madison County Health Commissioner, Penny Dehner, Paint Valley Board, Dr. Lou Kramer, superintendent London City Schools and Tom Bailey, superintendent at Washington Court House School District.
http://www.madison-press.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2017/08/web1_MadisonCountyCHpiccol.jpgMadison and Fayette County members sitting in on opioid roundtable with Rep. Steve Stivers on Thursday in Columbus. From left are: Chris Cooke, Madison County Health Commissioner, Penny Dehner, Paint Valley Board, Dr. Lou Kramer, superintendent London City Schools and Tom Bailey, superintendent at Washington Court House School District. Michael Williamson | The Madison Press

Roundtable discussion on Ohio’s opioid epidemic was held Thursday morning in Columbus. From left are: Gina Speaks-Eshler, Deputy Director Clinton County JFS, Kathi Spirk, discussion moderator and the Director of Clinton County JFS and Rep. Steve Stivers, Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.
http://www.madison-press.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2017/08/web1_Stiverspiccol.jpgRoundtable discussion on Ohio’s opioid epidemic was held Thursday morning in Columbus. From left are: Gina Speaks-Eshler, Deputy Director Clinton County JFS, Kathi Spirk, discussion moderator and the Director of Clinton County JFS and Rep. Steve Stivers, Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. Michael Williamson | The Madison Press
Madison County officials join Rep. Stivers at Columbus forum

By Michael Williamson

mwilliamson@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.