Meeting Urges Community Action In Drug Treatment

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The community’s effect on drug treatment was the topic of the third in a series of talks created by the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office.

Several individuals receiving treatment for drug addiction were present to listen and ask questions of treatment center representatives who attended the meeting as well.

The meeting was a partnership between the prosecutor’s office and the Athens-Hocking-Vinton 317 Board, who oversees drug treatment and counseling facilities throughout the three counties. Both the prosecutor’s office and the 317 Board emphasize the need for support from outside the treatment environment.

“I hear ‘community’ over and over and that really is the most important part of this,” said Earl Cecil, executive director of the 317 Board.

The prosecutor’s office is rolling out an initiative called the Fresh Start program, in an effort to bring in funds and awareness to drug addiction and hopefully bring about a change in the amount of treatment available in the area.

The program, along with several local law enforcement agencies in the area, just provided Health Recovery Services (HRS) with a donation to allow the facility to begin a daily program, largely utilizing medication-assisted addiction treatment. The program uses Suboxone, a drug that is used to help opiate addicts with both the addiction and the symptoms of withdrawal during drug use, according to Dr. Joe Gay, executive director of HRS.

“This (daily) program will be very helpful because there are many problems with Suboxone diversion, that is, people selling the drugs on the street,” Gay said at the meeting. “With this program, they will come in and take the medication in front of us, which will decrease the chances of it being diverted.”

Gay said those without transportation will still be able to come to the daily treatment if they have Medicaid, which will pay for transportation to receive the treatment. He said the agency is also looking into other ways to obtain transportation for those that need it.

The need for community support through donation was emphasized throughout the meeting, including those that are a part of the treatment.

“This program does work, but we need the help to keep it going,” said Paula, a woman undergoing drug addiction treatment. Only first names were used in reference to those in treatment.

Funding is a necessary part of the community response, Assistant Prosecutor Meg Saunders said.

“It’s an expensive treatment program,” Saunders said. “We’re seeking help in any way we can, including a fund that is open through the Athens Foundation.”

Hocking County Judge Fred Moses also attended the meeting and said the support should be aimed at gaining more opportunities for those who have addiction. Moses also oversees Hocking County Municipal Court’s Drug Court, something Athens County is looking into.

“We need more alternatives,” Moses said. “We don’t have the answers but we are offering opportunities with these programs.”