Ohio’s Opioid Crisis: What Can Be Done About It

 By Nelson W. Burns CEO, Coleman Professional Services

Ohio is in the throes of an opioid epidemic that shows no signs of abating. In 2005, 500 Ohioans died from opioid overdoses. Two years ago, 2,700 opioid overdoses occurred. That is a 440% increase in 10 years!  Also in 2005, most overdoses were caused by heroin. Today, most overdoses are caused by fentanyl, carfentanil or a heroin/fentanyl combination.

This 4-minute video, courtesy of the Today Show, helps explain the core of this crisis: www.today.com/video/opioid-addiction-how-ohio-has-become-the-epicenter-971802691633

Today’s blog post will give you basic information about opioids, along with the short- and long-term solutions to this crisis as I see it.

What is an Opioid?

Opioids are a class of drugs that are both legal and illegal. They bind to one or more of the three opioid receptors of the body thus producing euphoria for the user.

Legal pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®) and others are prescribed by a physician and are considered generally safe when taken for a short time.

However, after the legal pain relievers are no longer available, an individual may turn to the illegal drug heroin or synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil to keep that euphoric feeling going. Fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger and carfentanil is 5,000-10,000 times stronger than heroin, thus the reason for many more overdoses in recent years.

Short-Term Solutions: Naloxone and Incarnation

Naloxone is a synthetic drug that blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system and often can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. In order to administer this drug to someone in need, individuals must go through Ohio’s Project DAWN program.  

In addition, addicts are often jailed because they committed a crime to raise cash for opioids; leaving them to go through withdraw without proper supervision or trained addiction services staff to oversee the process.

These are short-term solutions that prevents overdoses, however the user will still need long-term addiction recovery services to kick their habit.

Long-Term Solutions:  Limited Prescription, Access and Collaboration

It is time we all stop treating individuals with this addiction as criminals and realize as they need compassion and treatment.  There are three important long term steps to attain a solution.

  1. Coleman advocates Governor Kasich’s Executive Order to limit prescriptions which entails:
    • 5-day opioid limit for minors;
    • 7-day opioid limit for adults;
    • The total Morphine Equivalent Dose (MED) of a prescription for acute pain cannot exceed an average of 30 MED per day.

  2. Persons dealing with substance use must have responsible and immediate ACCESS to services; they can’t be put on a waiting list for three weeks.

  3. All substance use services should be collaborative and have experienced providers. We can’t just throw money to service providers who have an idea for treatment. This crisis calls for different providers with years of experience to collaborate on behalf of the client. The client is to be served FIRST and the providers need to effectively support the client in their recovery.
Here are Some of the Collaborative Services Coleman Provides

At Coleman Professional Services, we offer a jail diversion program and a variety of addiction services to keep addicts out of jail and give them a road to recovery that is reachable. As Coleman’s CEO, it is my goal to expand our treatment programs to our entire eight-county area and make it possible for those with limitations (i.e. poor transportation options, disabilities) to have access to treatment that is convenient to them regardless of their ability to pay. Coleman is working with Summa Health System, University Hospitals and St. Rita’s Medical Center to provide the best collaborative care positive.

The specialized residential group living service provides education, socialization, recreation, medication monitoring and independent living skill training for adults with behavior problems and addiction issues.

As you viewed in the above video, lack of jobs is considered one of the reasons for this crisis. Roughly 60% of individuals with addiction disorders, disabilities and mental health issues are unemployed. I believe employment is the KEY weapon to winning this fight as it will give an employee structure and a way to support themselves during the recovery process. If you are an employer who is hiring, Coleman Employment Services would appreciate the opportunity to match individuals with disabilities to your employment needs.

Coleman Employment Services also offers benefits counseling which is a comprehensive process that evaluates an individual’s benefits, including Medicaid.  An initial interview with the client takes place to review existing benefits and determine potential employment income for the client.

What you can do: Prevention & Education

Parents and educators need to get involved in the Health and Opioid-Abuse Prevention Education (HOPE) curriculum and start talking to their children about the dangers of drug abuse. Find out if your school system is offering this program and lobby for its inclusion, if it currently is not offered.

Contact us today for more information about the many ways we can serve you or your loved ones. Together, we can work toward promising solutions to this terrible substance abuse issue.