The aftermath of opioid usage in the region

Dec 2, 2017 | News

Published by The Lima News
By Camri Nelson –

LIMA — In Allen County, 71 people died from an opioid overdose from 2010 to 2016. The majority of them were white male laborers between the ages of 31 and 40, according to data from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Ohio Department of Health.

The data for Auglaize County and Putnam counties have similar patterns.

In Auglaize County, 20 people died from an opioid overdose from 2010 to 2016 and the majority of them were white male laborers between the ages of 41- and 50. In Putnam county, 13 people died between 2010 and 2016 from an opioid overdose and all of them were white, with the majority of them being male laborers between the ages of 31 and 40.

Michael Schoenhofer, the executive director of Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin Counties, has found that people between the ages of 25 and 45 are addicted the most to opioids in this region. He said he believes this is because doctors are overprescribing medication to patients and there is a general acceptance of the drugs.

As far as race goes, Schoenhofer found that most of the people addicted to heroin in this region are white. He finds that data to be interesting because it doesn’t seem to impact the black community like the white one.

“I’m not saying it’s a white problem but at least in our region it’s the drug of preference,” he said.

Although more men than women have died from opioid overdoes between 2010 and 2016, Schoenhofer found that women are more addicted to opioids than men. He says this is because women tend to struggle with depression and anxiety more.

Regardless of race, sex, or occupation Schoenhofer said people are feeling in despair have decided to abuse drugs because society has set up an expectation that pain can be relieved instantly. He said this happens because there is less human interaction than there was before.

“We are so obsessed with our iPhones and electronics that we become disengaged,” he said. “We are experiencing the results of a disconnection and people are looking for relief.”

In order to help those who are struggling with opioid addictions, Schoenhofer said there are programs in the area such as Project Dawn, where Narcan kits are given to first responders, police, and family members so that addicts don’t die from overdosing. He also said facilities such as the Crisis Center, Mercy Health-St. Rita’s, and Coleman Professional Services have helped patients in the past recover from their addictions.

At Coleman Professional Services, clients can go through behavioral health and rehabilitation services that are designed to improve the lives of individuals and families. In addition to that, the company helps clients find housing and further their education.

Charlie Oen, one of Coleman’s recovery coaches, knows firsthand what it is like to struggle with an opioid addiction. While growing up in Germany, he was introduced to drugs at a young age. He began drinking, which turned into marijuana, and he gradually began experimenting with other drugs. Heroin became his drug of choice because it was cheaper than the rest.

After messing around with the wrong people he broke into a house while high on narcotics and in 2010 was sentenced to three years in prison. He was released early and was sent to the Western Ohio Regional Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, where he learned how to better recover from his addiction.

From there, he became involved with Coleman. It has been three years since he began working there and he said he loves what he does.

“It’s incredibly humbling,” he said. “I love to help people and I like to see people achieve their goals and get to a better place.”

Just recently, he took eight clients horseback riding at Marvin Farms as a part of a pro-social recreational activities, which he said many of them enjoyed.

“It shows people that you don’t have to be high or do drugs to experience life,” he said. “We’re showing people how to live independently with their disease but the right way. It’s all about decision-making.”

Sara Hollar, who is also a recovery coach at Coleman, has a very different addiction story. Hollar grew up having to learn responsibility at a young age. At the age of 9, she and her 11-year-old brother lived on their own, while their dad lived in town with his girlfriend and children.

“I did well with that for a while and eventually I started drinking, which was an escape for me,” she said. “When the alcohol wore off my thoughts were consumed by trauma and eventually escalated to marijuana.”

Marijuana was her catalyst to using acid and hallucinogens, which were her favorite drugs because it was a total detachment from reality.

As Hollar got older she did well with addiction and was sober for five years but things changed after having her fourth child. She went through a severe postpartum depression and later when she had to get her wisdom teeth pull and was given oxycodone she fell back in.

“As soon as I took that pill I immediately found the safe place that I was looking for.” she said.

After that she began using all kinds of drugs such as Percocet and Vicodin, which led to her using heroin because it was cheaper. However, after a while she didn’t have enough money to support her addiction so she became a booster, someone who shoplifts and sells items for half price and she began falsifying prescriptions. Her actions landed her in prison three times.

“The first two times were like whatever — one was six months and the other was nine months — but my crimes escalated as I went forward in my addictions,” she said.

While in prison she was offered treatment through the courts but she never made a complete change until she went to prison for the third time where she was was sentenced to four years and nine months.

“One day, after a couple of years of being in there, I woke up and was like, ‘What are you doing?’” she said. “You need to do something different now while you’re in here and work on yourself.”

After serving a four-year sentence she got a judicial release and was told by her probation officer to see Kelly Biese and Sandy Monfort, two re-entry coordinators at Coleman.

On her first day, Monfort and Biese helped her get her Social Security card, ID, emergency Medicaid and emergency food stamps. Within three months she gained custody of all four of her children.

“Coleman helped me every step of the way,” she said. “Kelly Biese and Sandy Monfort were like my guardian angels. Their support is what helped me get through this time.

Now that she is a recovery coach she is grateful to have the opportunity to touch other people’s lives.

“It is just an awesome job to have that you know that you can make that difference because someone made that difference for me,” she said.