County Officials Attend Statewide Opiate Addiction Symposium

COLUMBUS (July 8, 2014) – Local judicial, law enforcement, and treatment services representatives traveled to Columbus on June 30 to learn about promising judicial practices and options for opiate addiction treatment, including medication-assisted treatment, at the Ohio Judicial Symposium on Opiate Addiction.

Clermont County was among 83 Ohio counties represented at the symposium presented by the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team, and Office of Criminal Justice Services and hosted by the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities.

The event included remarks from Governor John R. Kasich, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor, and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “We’re done ignoring the drug addicted and the mentally ill in this state. We’re not going to save them all, but in the course of trying to save one person at a time, we not only change the world, we change ourselves,” Gov. Kasich said.

“Unintended deaths from opiate overdoses are approaching a problem that is nearly double the number of highway fatalities,” Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor told the more than 800 in attendance. “I am convinced that with the collective wisdom and will of those who are gathered here today, we will develop effective strategies that will reverse the trend.”

Attendees also heard from addiction experts and a panel of judges running successful specialty dockets on drug abuse.

“It was helpful to share what we are doing in Clermont County to address this problem, and to learn what other counties are doing,” said Clermont County Commissioner Ed Humphrey, who attended the symposium. “We will be able to share that information with the partnerships we’ve developed in Clermont County, such as the Opiate Task Force, to continue to address this issue in our community.”

For example, one county spoke about the Drug Court it has established, said Karen Scherra, Executive Director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board (MHRB), who attended the symposium. Clermont County does not have a Drug Court focused on opiate addiction, she noted, which typically involves extensive contact between the court and a treatment agency.  However, the Clermont courts work collaboratively with the treatment system and could incorporate some of the drug court actions into their process.

“Clermont County has a very severe problem with opiate addiction,” Scherra said. Currently, 650 Clermont residents are being treated at the Clermont Recovery Center, which is funded by the MHRB. Many receive medication-assisted treatment to help them with withdrawal and cravings, she said. In 2013, there were 57 overdose deaths in the county, and of those, 38 were from heroin. “We are considered to be a ‘hot spot’ for addiction by the state,” Scherra said. “Because heroin is cheap and plentiful in this area, we were one of the first counties to switch from prescription drugs to heroin.”

A year ago, the county established the Opiate Task Force, which consists of representatives from law enforcement, the courts, treatment organizations, the General Health District, businesses, and families. David Uible, President of the Clermont County Board of Commissioners, is also on the Opiate Task Force. “The task force has allowed us to better understand the roots of this problem and to better coordinate  efforts to  address it,” he said.

In addition to Humphrey and Scherra, Clermont team members who attended the state symposium included Municipal Court Administrative Judge Tony Brock; Municipal Court Chief Probation Officer Joe Ellison; Common Pleas Judge Jerry McBride; Julie Frey, Director of Adult Probation for Common Pleas Court; Public Defender Dan Hannon; Assistant County Prosecutor Jason Nagel; Assistant County Administrator Tom Eigel; and Jason Maurath, TASC Director for Clermont Recovery Center.

For more information:  If you are seeking help for yourself or someone else with an addiction problem, call the MHRB at 513-732-5400 or the Clermont Recovery Center at 513-735-8100.