Every day, 15 Ohio families lose a loved one to a preventable, treatable disease: addiction. In 2017, according to the CDC, 5,111 Ohio residents died from a drug overdose, giving the state the second highest overdose rate in the country, just behind West Virginia. Across the country, 192 people are dying every day as a result of an overdose; it’s an astonishing 400 every day if you add alcohol-related deaths
Desperate times call for desperate measures, the saying goes. In response to the opioid crisis, the Addiction Policy Forum formed nearly five years ago to support families at their worst hour, to translate the science of addiction for widespread public understanding, and to promote innovative responses to addiction. Our Innovation Now initiative identifies creative and effective programs working in every state to help those struggling with addiction. We are finding innovators in many sectors, from prevention, treatment, and recovery, to law enforcement, criminal justice, and child welfare.
The Ohio Innovations to Address Addiction report features the following 17 programs helping people impacted by addiction, saving lives, and changing society’s response to it.
Prevention Action Alliance gives a voice to those impacted by addiction. The program was founded in 1987 and is now the leading prevention advocacy group in Columbus, Ohio. The group develops local, regional and statewide initiatives and advocates for legislation to promote prevention. Together, they make people impacted by addiction feel like they’re in the majority and are not alone in this fight.
Since 2003, the Wood County Educational Service Center has provided prevention education to nine public schools and one career center in the community. Just like everyone’s fingerprint is unique, everyone’s prevention plan should be unique to their specific needs. The Center takes a holistic approach where they consider the totality of each student’s life, such as their ACEs score, and offers more than 20 programs addressing the needs revealed in the survey.
Don’t live in Denial, Ohio. This isn’t a real city, but it is a real state of mind. The Ohio Opioid Education Alliance conducted a focus group of parents about their children’s substance use and most said, “Not my kid” or “My kid is a good kid”. That’s when the organization realized most parents live in denial that their child could develop a substance use disorder. The Ohio Opioid Education Alliance addresses this myth in their public service campaigns.
While it’s important to help people struggling with addiction, it’s equally as important to support children impacted by it. Ohio Sobriety, Treatment, and Reducing Trauma (START) provides specialized services, such as intensive trauma counseling, to children with parental substance use. The program also assists parents with their recovery, helping the family unite to recover and grow together.
What if mothers didn’t have to choose between treatment and staying with their children? First Step Home lets both happen together. It’s a certified drug and alcohol program in southern Ohio that allows children to stay with their mom while she receives treatment in many different forms. One participant said, “This place literally saved my life ... and changed my life.”
A facility so nice, people asked if it was a spa. But OneFifteen is a healthcare ecosystem dedicated to the full recovery of people struggling with opioid addiction. The program offers a tech-enabled system of care with wrap-around services all in one place. The name OneFifteen is a daily reminder of the real people impacted by addiction, representing the 115 people we lost every day to a drug overdose in 2016. (That number rose to 192 a day in 2017).
Timing is everything when it comes to overdose response. Hamilton County Engagement Center works with hospitals, Quick Response Teams, and treatment providers to refer patients who have overdosed or are at high risk of relapse to Talbert House. The Engagement Center allows someone to get access to care and a bed immediately after an overdose. The rapid transfer to care is crucial to help prevent a relapse during an extremely vulnerable time.
Sandi Wagner and Whitney Caudill noticed a gap in housing for homeless women before they enter 28- day treatment programs and waiting for long-term care, so they created the solution. Her Story fills the gap, providing temporary housing for women seeking to overcome addiction. The program not only puts a roof over their heads, but also promotes treatment options and helps pave a path for a better life for participants.
“Teamwork makes the dream work.” At Colerain Quick Response Team, that’s the motto they live by. The team consists of experts from multiple sectors who work together to connect patients who overdose to treatment. Police officers perform a warm hand-off, the firefighter or paramedic checks for health-related issues and the addiction expert opens the door to treatment.
RREACT consists of special teams that connect with overdose patients when they enter the hospital and work with them to ensure they get the care they need. If patients refuse assistance, RREACT leaves the door open for help in the future. One participant initially declined help, but as his addiction worsened over time, he reached out and now has been sober for one year.
Seventy-five percent of people with a substance use disorder have a full-time job. Nationwide stays by the side of their employees. The Nationwide Substance Free Workplace Program works by allowing associates who test positive on a drug screen to keep their job if they agree to treatment. Systems are set in place to ensure associates get the help they need and continue to work on their recovery.
Hocking County Municipal Judge Fred Moses describes his first week on the bench as looking at “a war zone.” He saw case after case of people dying off the docket as they struggled with addiction. Judge Moses created the first of its kind in Ohio, the Hocking County Vivitrol Drug Court. This program provides Vivitrol, a drug used to prevent an opioid dependence relapse, to participants who agree to an intensive program including court meetings and a case manager.
It’s critical to link people who overdose to the necessary resources right away. Lucas County D.A.R.T (Drug Abuse Response Team) immediately connects people revived from an overdose to a variety of therapeutic recovery programs locally. D.A.R.T consists of sheriffs, forensic counselors and police officers, and together they have helped over 5,000 people.
Addiction is a family disease. Not only because of genetics, but also because it impacts everyone. Families of Addicts is a support group for anyone whose life has been touched by addiction. The group holds weekly meetings where they celebrate success while mourning loss. Together, the group supports one another in their struggles while educating about the disease of addiction.
Heartland High School is Ohio’s only recovery school. It allows students who are in recovery to receive a traditional high school diploma while surrounding themselves with peers in a similar situation. Teachers provide recovery-centered lessons that help create a sense of confidence and belonging they wouldn’t receive in a traditional school.
Shelly and Travis Bornstein’s lives were turned upside down one September day. Their son, Tyler died of an overdose. To honor Tyler they created Hope United to educate, support and provide recovery to communities and families impacted by addiction. In 2020, Hope United will expand to include Tyler’s Redemption Place, which will be Ohio’s first-ever relapse prevention wellness center.
Stigma often holds people back from reaching out for treatment. The Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center integrates recovery into the community to help eliminate the stigma for people struggling with mental health or substance use issues. The entire Sandusky Artisans staff is in recovery and trained in peer-to-peer counseling to support participants. Not only does the program offer counseling, it also uses art as a form of therapy and a part of the recovery process.
With so many people dying every day in Ohio from drug overdoses, it could be easy to get discouraged. But we are finding hope in innovative programs and passionate people who are genuinely helping families and changing the lives of patients impacted by addiction. Our dream is for these programs to be replicated across the country to help other communities until addiction is no longer a major health concern. Together, we can solve this.