“Thank God my story doesn’t start with ‘I lost my son to addiction,’” says Jennifer “Punkin” Stepp. While her story ends with her son in recovery, it doesn’t mean the road was easy. Stepp’s son, Sammy, was introduced to drugs at an early age. As his addiction deepened, Stepp began to look for help in her community. However, resources in Bullitt County were few. “After a while, you start getting tired of people saying you are a bad parent or your child is defective.
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After Vietnam, time as a combat medic and over 40 years in law enforcement, Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp thought he’d seen it all. He was mistaken. Nothing could prepare him to witness people suffering through addiction and withdrawal in jail. “Every time I walked in, I would see a young person, people you would never imagine lying in a cell, suffering through withdrawal. It was a horrible sight, and I knew I wanted to help.”
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Stories of the opioid crisis were on the front page of every newspaper when Marti Taylor was first approached by Verily (an Alphabet company) about a new opportunity to tackle this issue. At the time, Taylor was the CEO of The Ohio State University Hospital at the Wexner Medical Center. “I remember the first few waves of overdose deaths in Ohio several years ago. Patients suffering from addiction were rapidly and repeatedly seeking rehabilitation services and we - like many surrounding healthcare systems - were too frequently unsuccessful at breaking the cycle of addiction,” recalls Taylor. “Verily told me about a vision for a partnership driven ecosystem based in Dayton, Ohio that would fill many of the unmet needs of people seeking treatment, with the goal of advancing the field of addiction medicine as a Learning Health System. I knew I had to be a part of it.”
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For a long time, women in Oregon who were both pregnant and fighting addiction were caught in a Catch-22. Addiction providers didn’t want to work with pregnant women because of potential complications. And maternity care providers didn’t want to work with women suffering from addiction because of lack of understanding and expertise in that area.