Notes from the Addiction and Recovery Town Hall


On Thursday, June 7th, the NTTP hosted its first Town Hall event at Newark High. We'd like to thank everyone who attended. Click below to see notes contributed by Lesha Farias.

Two types of "experts" were present: traditional professionals, and those with lived experience.

Allen Schwarz was the moderator. He asked attendants to engage in the complexity and difficulty of addressing the addiction and recovery crisis. One of the missions we activists and organizers have to undertake is consciousness raising, specifically, discrediting the pro-punishment, pro-incarceration narrative.  

Four principles were established at the beginning; addiction affects all of us; the extent of the problem is enormous, and it cannot be address by one person, group or institution; addiction is a medical condition, a disease that requires treatment; and we need to treat people suffering from addiction, not incarcerate them.

Every attendee received a summary of the C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy's study, Taking Measure of Ohio's Opioid Crisis (you can find the summary here), and Allen brought a piece of the program's study to the attention of the panelists. Currently, Ohio can only treat 20-40% of those addicted to opioids. According to the Swank Program, it would cost $8.8 billion to address the problem, $600,000 less than Ohio's K-12 budget. 

Eric Lee, NTTP, and Dr. Elizabeth Yoder, a psychiatry specialist for Licking Memorial's Sheperd Hill, raised concerns about the stigma and lack of hope people feel when discussing addiction. Without drop-in centers, safe living spaces, and jobs that offer living wages and medical benefits, there is no way for the meth community to come out of the shadows, said Eric.

Officer Derrick Beach, Newark Police Department, said people seeking treatment should get it the moment they are ready and willing, not when the system finds time to reach them. He announced that NARI, NPD's Newark Addiction Recovery Initiative, is working with Kroger to provide jobs to those in recovery. They help with resumes, job applications, clothing, and a free bike. Officer Beach's perspective is that people recovering from addiction want to be productive members of society, and he hopes to establish similar relationships with other Licking County businesses.

Chris Wills, NTTP, said there is no cooperation from the health system, and people with addiction are segregated by the type of drug destroying their lives. "We have to come together. People are dying regardless of the type of addiction.

Tom Brennan, Director of Behavioral Health at Licking Memorial Health Systems, said it is frustrating because the insurance companies frequently deny resources to handle addiction to methamphetamine. Dr. Yoder also agreed. There are answers, but again, not without funding.

Trish Perry voiced displeasure at the number of seats empty in the Newark High auditorium. Her belief is that our community is not on board, even though 1 in 3 citizens knows a person with an addiction. She urged everyone to attend the Fed-Up Rally on August 30th, which the Newark Think Tank on Poverty is also sponsoring, to help educate our neighbors. Tonya Cooper also encouraged attendants to build political and support systems beyond their families. 

Medicaid was identified as needed tool by panelists from the health systems. According to Kay, starting July 1st, 2018, people seeking coverage under Medicaid will automatically be given a managed care plan if they have not already made their choice. On May 1st, the Ohio Department of Medicaid submitted their request to impose a work requirement for people applying for Medicaid. If it is approved, this will put further strain on healthcare providers. 

Jim Takacs, Executive Director of Licking County Alcohol Prevention Program, said there isn’t enough money to pay clinical people in the field adequate wages. A trend he does not see changing soon is that, because of the stress of the job, fast food work has become more lucrative. MCPs in Ohio will be a pot with 4 billion dollars in it, and all service providers will have to re-negotiate their contracts, meaning less funding in the future. 

Scott Fulton, Director of Adult Court Services, said even though the opioid crisis remains the biggest headline addiction, meth is the bigger problem in Licking County. He believes Drug Court, which is currently held by three judges, to be effective, with 3 local judges and how effective it is.

Scott has found their Day Reporting Program to be a success, which is funded by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison pilot grant. People attend Monday through Friday, nine to four in the evening, for twelve weeks, and attend a number of groups, including ones focused on art and poetry therapy.

Want to share your notes or pictures? Leave them in the comments and we'll add them to this post.

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