Forum greatstep in facingcrisis head on

Anyone who doubts that opioid addition and substance abuse are not at epidemic proportions in communities like London and Madison County need only look at the chilling statistics presented at the substance abuse public forum held Wednesday night here in London.

More than 100 people attended the special public meeting, arranged by London Mayor Pat Closser. We want to take this opportunity to commend Mayor Closser for hosting this event and thank everyone who gave presentations on the opioid epidemic and especially all those who attended and asked a variety of questions about addiction and how we as citizens can turn the tide against this terrible onslaught of addiction and death.

As the mayor said to those at London High School, everyone in our community is affected by this problem. He said the purpose of such forums is to start a community conversation, to increase awareness and hopefully work together to turn this frightening trend around.

Consider these chilling statistic provided Wednesday night by Madison County Public Health Commissioner Chris Cook:

— In Madison County, the average age-adjusted drug overdose rate per 100,000 population between 2010-2015 was 15, about the state average;

— The number of drug overdoes deaths in Madison County has increased every year since 2013s 49; 2014, 50; 2015, 86; 2016, 96 and already so far in 2017 — 68. Sadly, we are on pace to easily surpass 2016’s record number of deaths;

— In Ohio, there were 3,050 accidental drug overdoes deaths in 2015. That number jumped to 3,803 in 2016;

— In 2016, 86 percent of the drug overdoes deaths in Ohio involved opioids;

— In 2016, 1,979 Ohio overdoes deaths involved Fentanyl.

Since 2012, in fact, 408 Madison County residents have died from drugs. According to Cook’s statics presented Wednesday night, one of the most chilling numbers is the average number of emergency room visits per week in Madison County. That number has been climbing every year from 2012 (1.1) to 2017 (4.3). That’s a jump of more than 300 percent in five years.

And if you ask law enforcement here in Madison County they will tell you that a growing percentage of our crimes are related to drugs — thefts, robberies, burglaries — all to get money to buy drugs.

Here is one more painful statistic about drugs and Madison County — 56 percent of local drug overdoes cases are of residents between 25 and 49 years old, and 18 percent are of resident 18 to 24 years old.

But more than just the staggeringly bad statistics is something that cannot — should not — ever be overlooked. This is the terrible toll this drug epidemic is taking on the people of Madison County.

Lost lives. Lost loved ones. Lost fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. Lost friends and co-workers. Lost children. More than 400 of them over the last five years.

That is a burden on the hearts of our families that is becoming almost too difficult to bear.

We were pleased to see that a number of residents attending the meeting had lots of questions about prevention. Many asked what they can do to fight the epidemic.

There is a Madison County Substance Abuse Coalition in place since 2010 involving 12 local communities. This coalition has been working on a number of strategies to fight the spreading epidemic. We fear much more needs to be done. We have received grants and other funding for prevention programs. There are also treatment programs in place for those addicted seeking to recover.

The public forum is a great start in our fight against opioid addiction and substance abuse in Madison County. These needs to be continued discussion among everyone in Madison County.

Only by facing this epidemic head on will we ever hope to turn the corner. Too many lives are at stake to do anything less.