Drug Abuse, Mental Health Focus of Community Event

By Heaven Hunter

The 2nd annual Com-munity Brunch and Crunch was held at the Lions Club building on Tuesday, July 24, sponsored by Family Resource Network (FRN) and Substance Abuse Coalition, and led by Tina Persinger.

FRN is a local coali-tion working to improve services for families and children in Calhoun County. It works to assess community needs, develop local plans, promote changes, evaluate results, and assist agencies in improving the service delivery system.

Brunch and Crunch was focused on substance abuse and the imple-mentation of education, prevention, recovery, and treatment. Speakers from Calhoun and Roane joined to exchange conversation and empowerment sur-rounding substance abuse and addiction.

Drug prevention edu-cation was discussed by Rita McCrobie of the State Attorney General’s office. She travels around the state and visits festivals, schools, and specific organizations to get her message out.

McCrobie presented a PowerPoint of maps and diagrams focusing on the objectives of un-derstanding the opioid epidemic, explaining/identifying opioids and prescription drug abuse, and explaining the con-nection between drug abuse and heroin: “West Virginia’s problem in-cludes a frightening drug overdose death rate; the culprit is opioids.

“You have your pre-scription pain medica-tions: your oxycodone, morphine, percocet, etc. Then, we have illegal street drugs, which are heroin and the illicit Fentanyl. These drugs are powerful and addictive and do not treat the underlying injury.

“Children are getting a hold of these drugs, causing early abuse rates; however, there are ways to reduce the risk of such issues. Ask for the shortest duration possible and the lowest effective dose.

“Also, give opioids exactly as prescribed, give the opioids only to the person they were prescribed for, store the opioids in a locked cabinet away from children, friends, and visitors.

“Keep track of how much medicine is in the container, safely get rid of any leftover opioids as soon as they are no longer needed, and talk to your children about the risks of taking medicines that are not prescribed for them.”

There are also alter-natives that can be used in place of opioids, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, physical and occupational therapy, yoga, and behavioral therapy.
McCrobie noted that prescription drug disposal is available in all 55 counties in West Virginia. Residents of Calhoun may dispose of prescriptions in the sheriff’s office.

Prevention was discussed by Shelly Mize, Region 3 Prevention Grant coordinator for Westbrook Health Services, and Tim Craft, Founder/CEO of High on Hope Ministries, located in Parkersburg.

Mize presented Help & Hope West Virginia and Stigma Free West Virginia: “West Virginia families and communities, along with the rest of the nation, continue to face the public health crisis of substance use disorder.

“Together, we can help fellow West Virginians and restore our families and communities. Stigma is one of the major reasons why people do not seek treatment.

“I know there were roughly 80,000 people in West Virginia who needed treatment for a substance abuse disorder, or a mental health disorder, and did not seek help. If we could change how we speak, and change the words we use, that’s going to help people seek help and know that they are okay.”

Craft said, “(We need to be) real intentional about going after the people that are struggling. I don’t think we can continue to do the same exact things and expect to see a difference, when the rate of overdose is climbing.

“We have to be intentional about going out and maybe doing something unorthodox or a little different.”

Parkersburg, Craft’s organization has started The Freedom Project: “(It) is a response team that will work with first responders in the moments of overdose, or when first responders come across people who are willing to get out of the lifestyle of addiction.

“We have a team of trained people who are willing to go intervene and help the person find a place of treatment in the moment of crisis. We believe this will cut down on the overdose rate and start turning the tide of addiction.

“We want to be proactive in going after the addiction crisis. We want to go to the places and areas that people are struggling and bring them in.”

Craft said that in the past 90 days, they have placed 100 people into detox.

Concerning recovery, Charles Greathouse, the ninth graduate of Roane/ Calhoun Adult Drug Court, and his wife, Jill Greathouse, executive director of Roane County FRN, shared their knowledge and experiences.

Charles said, “Drug Court is a 12 to 18 month program for non-violent offenders. I received an intensive outpatient program, relapse prevention, weekly counseling, and random drug screens.”

He noted that the longevity of the drug court program proved to be key to his success and transformation of lifestyle.

Jill said that the Roane County FRN plans to celebrate National Recovery Month on Saturday, Sept. 8, 5 to 7 p.m., in Spencer: “We will be walking from the courthouse to Washington Park.

“We would like everyone to wear purple and bring signs sharing a memory of anyone, or just related to recovery. Then, we will end at the park with speakers and food vendors.”
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant was discussed by Steve Whited, CEO of Minnie Hamilton Health System, and Kelsi Powell, case coordinator at Westbrook Health Services.

Powell said, “Westbrook recently received the grant to provide substance abuse services in the rural counties. MHHS will be one of the first sites to receive services that will help individuals on a path to recovery.”

Some of the services include substance use and mental health screening, SMART Recovery meetings and support groups, individual and group therapy, and educational services and continuing education opportunities.

Lesley Slaughter, Community Outreach coordinator at Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, and Julie Triplett, Westbrook Health Services, finished the program by briefly speaking about the process of referrals and connecting all provided resources to keep those receiving treatments at home, and out of hospitals.