GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health recently recognized area organizations and individuals fighting against the opioid epidemic in all its forms.
Angela Stowers, deputy director of the board, introduced brief video messages from Congressman Bill Johnson, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and OHMHAS Director Lori Criss thanking the community for its continuing support in the battle against substance abuse.
ADAMH Board Executive Director Robin Harris thanked Holzer Health System for its assistance in hosting the event and invited Holzer Health System Board Chairman Brent Saunders to speak. Saunders said the system was pleased to partner for the event and welcomed visitors and thanked those in attendance for their continued support.
“In 2017, I was sitting at a meeting at the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities and we were talking about the opioid epidemic and what was working and what wasn’t working and how the needs of our communities were continuing to escalate no matter what our efforts were,” said Harris. “We were looking at new issues with a budget and new opportunities and trying to make decisions about what could still be done in our communities. Our discussion turned to the fact that what we were seeing across our communities with the partners we were working with was a sense of exhaustion. We could see that people were tired.”
“As we would discuss addiction and especially when we would come to the topic of needle exchanges and the administration of Naloxone, I could start to see something in (law enforcement officers) that looked like resistance until we kept talking and it became more apparent that they’re just tired,” continued Harris, utilizing the law enforcement community as an example of the overall community’s exhaustion with the opioid epidemic. “They’re tired of administering Naloxone to the same people over and over again. Tired of grappling in the same neighborhoods and going to the same families and trying to solve problems that just seem to escalate. We saw it in the EMTs and dispatchers, teachers and social workers, everyone that was out there trying to do something because all of us who chose these helping professions that we’re in chose them because we want to make a difference for someone.”
Harris said she knew that the people in the room who continued to go to their jobs each day did so because they wanted to make a difference, despite the community’s continuing drug struggles.
“This issue has been particularly difficult to accomplish that, to see change. Instead, we’ve seen years of this spiral downward and the frustration of feeling overloaded and trying to find something that works. It’s affected everyone,” said Harris. “As we sat in that room that day we said let’s at least be behavioral health professionals and attend to our partners and say we know you’re tired. We’re tired too, but let’s give it one more try and let’s keep going.”
Harris said boards across Ohio discussed appreciation efforts with state officials to set aside a week in May for recognition of those fighting the opioid epidemic.
“We know who are on the front lines grappling with this every day, but we also see the rest of you,” said Harris. “We see the school teachers who are trying not only to educate children, but are coming to us and spending days with us as we train them about trauma because they understand that they also have to provide a means of healing for these children, educating and healing.”
“Tonight, we wanted to feed you and thank your for standing with us and partnering with us in so many ways as we try to serve the people of these counties better and thank you for hanging in there,” said Harris.
Saunders and Harris recognized area organizations with certificates of thanks as organizations were called. Champion Award presentations were also given to one resident each of Jackson, Gallia and Meigs Counties for their dedication to fighting substance abuse. Those recognized included Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery Chairman Thom Mollohan, Meigs County’s Trisha Gibson for her role as a counselor and Jackson County’s Warriors 4 Christ Recovery Ministry and the Oyer family for their continuing fight against addiction.
Attending organizations recognized included area schools, law enforcement, courts, recovery groups, civic organizations and more.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.