Representatives from the office of U.S Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) visited Washington Court House Monday afternoon to discuss the ongoing opioid crisis and what is being done to combat the problem.
About a dozen individuals gathered Monday at the Community Action Commission of Fayette County building to take part in a grant funding workshop. Stephen White, Portman’s central Ohio director, led the workshop with Jason Knox, grant coordinator for Portman. The two began the workshop by describing the efforts of Portman in helping to secure funding through a set of key acts and programs approved by the federal government. One of these acts, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), helped to secure $267 million for 2017, and the Drug Free Communities Program has been in effect for about 20 years.
“Really in a nutshell, we are here today to help Fayette County get access to some federal dollars that are coming online,” White said. “Our goal is to make sure that everyone in this room has the information to make decisions for the first and second quarter of next year, as these grants become available to be strategic in how we can align Fayette County and Washington Court House to these funds in order to save lives.”
After passing out grant information and explaining to the group how the various legislative acts and programs can help with funding, the duo began to talk about the future. Between the Drug Monitoring Act, the STOP Act and the CRIB act, Portman is working to help all levels of the opioid crisis, according to his representatives. From recognizing residential pediatric recovery facilities to helping stop the influx of fentanyl and other drugs through the U.S. Postal Service, the representatives said the federal government is ready to combat the epidemic.
The main point that White wanted to convey from Portman though? The federal government has the resources to support the fight, but it will take leaders working locally to end the crisis once and for all. With this in mind, the meeting was opened up to the group for them to discuss what Fayette County will need to be able to assist in this fight.
Christina Blair, Fayette County Prevention Coalition chairwoman and planner at the Community Action Commission, updated Portman’s representatives and the locals at the meeting of the efforts currently being made to confront the epidemic. Blair explained how she has worked to strengthen the fight on many fronts, including receiving grant money and starting student-led organizations within the local school districts, among a plethora of other work she has done.
From these updates a discussion began about the need for a detox center for the county. Several members of the group agreed that a facility is necessary for people who are coming off of a hard substance, such as heroin. This would allow an individual’s body to clean itself out, according to those in attendance. An idea of repairing an old building to suit this purpose was brought up to the representatives – an idea they said was possible.
Additionally, discussions about the difficulty of treating men over women due to access to healthcare, schools needing help with students who come home to addicted parents, the impact on foster care funding, and helping to connect local entities with other similarly rural entities who have succeeded in the opioid fight, were all brought up to White and Knox.
“We have a list of action items that Jason and I have put together,” White said. “I would like to report back to the group, at least to the Faith in Recovery group, by their next meeting (Jan. 3). I am going to be reaching out to a number of folks around this table on some of the key points we have found. In the meantime, get a hold of us and use us as a resource. We are all in this together and we look forward to working with you.”
For more information about Senator Rob Portman and other efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, visit www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/home.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy