Addressing Opioids

Published by: The Evening Leader

This is a continuation of the Q&A in the Sept. 28 edition of The Evening Leader.

How do our attitudes toward those in recovery have to change?

Colon: It's important to recognize that nobody woke up one day and decided to become an addict. It's not a life of glamour; they're usually homeless, they're usually struggling to find food. Most of the family members have left them because they've misused them, but they're part of our community and we have to heal. We can't just allow them to continue to live addicted for the next 30 or 40 years, hopefully some of them. We have to get it corrected, and to do that, that means we have to care, we have to recognize that most of them want help. If you have ever seen anyone try to come off opiates, you will understand the difficulty in doing that. It is the worst physical condition you can have ... It's embracing them; they're ours. We're responsible that they're there in some way, shape or another, and so we need to be responsible in helping them come out of it, equally responsible in helping out children not go into it. Instead of the idea that we're just going to throw them away, we're just going to let them all die off, we've been through that politically years and years ago. That never happens, so we might just pony up and come together and try to get them better.
Augsburger: Also holding them accountable because they need to take charge of their life. What I've seen with the ones who ended up in the court system is they love the pity party that goes with it, too, and they feed off that with their parents, loved ones. Some of them help them in their addiction so bad. I know a mother who drove her daughter to Dayton to get her heroin, so she didn't want to see her continue her withdrawals instead of trying to save her by getting her to these folks to get her treatment. Instead of holding her accountable; that's what our job in the court system is. They can be the nice ones, but I'm the barking dog who's making them continue because without me, most of the people I deal with will never walk through their door. They have to be practically forced into it. The first goal of the court is to not lock them up. The lower two tiers of the felonies, the fours and fives, where you only get 18 months or a year in prison, if that's your first criminal offense, at the gate, you're not going to prison. If you keep violating because you're not being accountable for your actions, then you'll work your way there into being locked up. We're using the power of the court to hold these people accountable so they can get cleaned up. Even as a prosecutor, my goal is that these people clean up their lives, have a good life, get a job, have a family, move on. There's one kid in St. Marys I would've sworn 10 years ago dealing with him, he would not have turned his life around ... He's now straightened his life up and has a real job somewhere; he's cleaned it up. It took him a long time and work, and on our end it takes a lot of work in dealing with these people who really hate us and don't want help and to try and make them clean their life up.

How long is the opioid effect on the body?

Schoenhofer: The opioid itself doesn't stay in your blood, but your brain is re-wired in a way that you crave the drug for a long, long time ... We now have a detox program; Coleman has a withdrawal management program and St. Rita's just opened one ... You can detox off the drug within five or six days; you can literally flush it out of your system, but the craving for the drug lasts for a long, long time. You got re-wired; something happened in there that you want to get whatever experience you had, you want to get that back again. That lasts years; that's where we need these guys because they are structure guys that often keep people in treatment.
Colon: It's not just the brain and the desire to use, but it's the body that became dependent on the medication or the opiate that is no longer in their system. There's physical, internal physiological cravings that are coming as a result of having removed the opioid out of their system, and their system is trying to figure out how it's starts to rebalance itself and live without something it's been used to living with.

Do you feel law enforcement personnel should be required to administer Narcan to overdose victims?

Augsburger: That's the biggest thing each chief or each sheriff is trying to figure out themselves. I know some think it should be EMS who carries it because they get them to the hospital, but it's a moral decision the head of each law enforcement office has to make that determination. I don't know much the St. Marys Police Department spends on Narcan. It's one of those moral decisions because no matter what we think, it's stil immoral to sit there and let that person die when they're blue and barely breathing and you know you can do something to save their life even though tomorrow they're going to turn around and do the same thing. It's a moral decision you have to make to try to save that person. That's what we try to do in the system.

Is it ever in the back of anyone's mind they can get Narcan and call 911?

Augsburger: The darkest thing in the entire addiction world, especially the party world, they have have different names; one of them is called the Lazarus party, where guys get together; someone's got the box of Narcan and their buddies want to see how close to death they can get. That's an unfortunate reality that's out there. How do you treat those folks who want to do that?

Why are these drugs readily available, and what can we do to stop that?

Augsburger: Law enforcement is doing the best they can to try and find it. It's really hard to get confidential informants, and you have to have confidential informants to go in and bust the drug dealer. Theyr'e fairly hard to come by, and the drug dealers, especially the higher ones in Dayton are smart enough to know how not to get caught and have their layers and their organization; they're fairly organized. That's why it's called organized crime. But we do the best we can to get it off the streets.

Interim Police Chief Jake Sutton responds:
When it comes to Narcan, the first and most important reason we carry it is for our guys. Because it only takes, especially with fentanyl, just a couple of micrograms to overdose and die ... We want to realize are we going to get out of this any time soon? People think fentanyl is that patch that you can get. Fentanyl is being made in China, and then it's shipped here and it costs about $3,000 a kilo. Heroin costs about $100,000 a kilo, so this is an economic issue, as well. If a dealer can buy it and sell it for what they were, it's going to be a long time before we get out of this problem. I know the governnment's working on it to take care of the shops in China that are selling and making this fentanyl, but it's going to be a while before we get out of it. As far as using Narcan, like Andrew said, we will use Narcan and we don't have a problem. Our EMS is wonderful, and they are Johnny on the spot, but first and foremost, it is 100 percent for us and for our canine because it only takes a little bit for us to inhale and we're out; we're done.

Speaker biographies:

Andrew Augsburger has been an attorney since 1995 and is a graduate of Ohio Northern University’s law school. He began his career in January 1997 at the Auglaize County Prosecutor’s Office as an assistant prosecutor. He has represented Auglaize County in criminal and civil matters. In 2016, he was awarded the Meritorious Assistant Prosecutor Award by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney Association. Prosecutor Ed Pierce, who nominated Augsburger for the award, praised him for doing just about every job in the office that could be done. Pierce called him his “go-to person. In 2015, Augsburger received the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award from the Auglaize County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 76 for his work in prosecuting defendants in the murder of a Uniopolis man and for putting a man in prison for 40 years who photographed nude teenage girls.

Dan Faraglia (pronounced Fa-rel-ya), is a Director at Coleman Professional Services. Dan has been housing individuals with mental illness and Substance Use Disorder’s for the last 10 years. He is a graduate of Ohio Northern University. He is directed with developing and operating housing to aide those with suffering from Substance Use Disorders. Dan was currently asked to sit on the planning committee for the Ohio Statewide Plan to end homelessness. He also chairs the Lima/Allen County Housing Consortium and is a member of the Region 12 Continuum of Care. Dan previously facilitated and coordinated Coleman’s Medical Assisted Treatment program and supervised the Recovery Coach’s working directly with folks with Substance Use Disorders.

Michael Schoenhofer is the Executive Director of the Mental health & Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin Counties. Mike has worked at the board for 24 years and been Executive Director since 2000. Mike is responsible for creating systems of care for youth and adults with mental illness and addiction as well as developing effective prevention programming in each community.

Tammie Colon received her undergraduate degree from Ohio Norther, Masters of Arts in Organizational Management from Bluffton University, and her Masters of Science in Social Administration from Case Western University. Highlights of her career include the implementation of the We Care Regional Crisis Center. Tammie has coordinated health care on site at Coleman to ensure that patients have access to primary care. The collaboration with Lima Memorial Hospital, for primary care and the on-site pharmacy has created a “one-stop-shop” for individuals with severe and persistent mental health. Tammie created a program called, Father’s Accountable for Children’s Tomorrows (FACT), a collaboration between Coleman, Department of Job and Family Services and Child Support Enforcement, that is a nationally recognized program that serves individuals who are on track to go to jail due to unpaid child support obligations, a felony conviction, and either mental health or substance use disorder a second opportunity by completing programming, gaining work, and paying on their obligation. This program alone allowed over $220,000 this past year to be collected and distributed to children in the Allen county community. Finally, Tammie is the 2017 Allen County Athena Award.