City and county leaders to tackle opiate dependence

The Healthy Communities Council of Bartholomew County recently approved what is being called “a more aggressive and immediate approach to addressing the opiate addiction epidemic in Bartholomew County.” The organization explains that the effort aims to address and mitigate community problems that have resulted from the recent dramatic increase in opiate dependence.

Organizers for the new initiative say that a new leadership structure within the Healthy Communities Council will provide support and resources to focus and accelerate existing substance abuse efforts. Three committees will focus on different aspects of the problem:

• Education and Prevention
• Law Enforcement and Judiciary tactics
• Treatment and Recovery

Area leaders, including Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop, County Commissioner Carl Lienhoop and Columbus Regional Health CEO Jim Bickel, will lead the initiative.

“We are like most communities across the country that suffer from the devastation this opiate epidemic causes,” said Mayor Lienhoop, who also serves as a Healthy Communities Council member. “We are different, though, in that we have decided not to wait any longer to get serious about tackling this problem.”

Organizers say that the next steps will include further development and structuring of the committees to establish community goals, build community awareness and engagement, identify priorities and resources needed and ensure community accountability.

A launch event for and community forum is scheduled for April 19, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Commons. Organizers say that Sam Quinones, author of “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” will speak along with Dr. Kendall Stewart, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer of the Portsmouth, Ohio Southern Ohio Medical Center. This event is free and no registration is required. You are encouraged to take part.