By Richard Payerchin, The Morning Journal | 01/25/2018
Dr. Don Sheldon, former University Hospitals regional president and president of University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, serves as keynote speaker during the announcement of the Philanthropic and Community Coalition to End the Opioid Epidemic, Jan. 25, 2018. Sheldon said the epidemic plaguing Lorain County is “not a moral failure. It’s a chronic disease.”
Dr. Don Sheldon, former University Hospitals regional president and president of University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, serves as keynote speaker during the announcement of the Philanthropic and Community Coalition to End the Opioid Epidemic, Jan. 25, 2018. Sheldon said the epidemic plaguing Lorain County is “not a moral failure. It’s a chronic disease.” Eric Bonzar — The Morning Journal
A new collaborative effort will redouble Lorain County efforts to fight the heroin epidemic, which is taking people’s lives and dragging down the local economy.
On Jan. 25, local foundations announced the creation of the Philanthropic and Community Coalition to End the Opioid Epidemic, a group of organizations joining together to fight addiction and its effects.
The coalition hopes to coordinate efforts of local nonprofits, businesses, health care organizations, governments, law enforcement and community groups to boost the battle against addiction.
Many of the key players already have invested several years fighting the overdoses and social effects of heroin and opioid drugs, said Dr. Donald Sheldon, the former regional president for University Hospital and UH Elyria Medical Center.
The level of coordination and the financial commitment of the foundations is new, he said.
“We’ve been losing this race long enough,” Sheldon said. “It’s time to win the race.
“This is all in. Everybody’s in,” he said.
The Nord Family Foundation will work with the Community Foundation of Lorain County and the Black River Education and Wellness Foundation, which will commit financial support and serve as members of the coalition.
Also new are findings and recommendations listed in “The Community Assessment of the Opioid Crisis in Lorain County, Ohio.” The study was compiled by Altarum, a health research firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the document will guide the effort.
Lorain County logged 132 opioid deaths and 2,691 opioid-related emergency room visits in 2016. Based on the data, it appeared the county in 2016 had an estimated 6,398 people with opioid use disorders and up to 35,186 residents – more than 10 percent of the county’s population – misusing opioids that year, according to the study results.
At least two other findings were startling, according to the leaders of the foundations.
Prescription opioid misuse and abuse in Lorain County is 2.5 times the national average, according to the study.
Along with lives lost and families affected, that translates to a total economic burden on Lorain County estimated at $200 million in 2016.
“The crisis has touched every member of the community,” Sheldon said.
It is possible for drug users to get help, said Dustin Braley, a men’s counselor for the LCADA Way.
At least 150 people came to the Spitzer Conference Center of Lorain County Community College to hear the foundations’ plan. They also heard Braley describe his own 15-year struggle with addiction.
Braley said he first encountered prescription painkillers while treating an ankle he rolled playing basketball.
Later, as he pursued his dream to become a master chef, Braley said a coworker first gave him the drug Vicodin to help ease the aches and pains of long hours on his feet.
What started as relief for physical ailments became a way to get through the day — and eventually landed him a year in prison, Braley said.
As he began to turn his life around, Braley said he studied at LCCC and became a counselor. He also attested to the lack of available beds in residential treatment centers for those who need help.
As for the coalition, it will have three goals:
- The reduction of deaths and overdoses in Lorain County.
- The establishment of a coordinated, accessible system that educates people about the disease, prevents it and treats it effectively when it happens.
- The reduction of the annual economic burden impacting Lorain County citizens and businesses.
The coalition will have six work teams focusing on education and prevention; treatment and recovery; criminal justice and law enforcement; health care and harm reduction; and surveillance and evaluation of data. Team members will be local experts working in those fields.
The solution will not happen overnight, Sheldon said.
“This is a several year commitment,” he said. “This isn’t a six weeks, we’re done.”