Opioid hub hears updates

Every seat around the circle of tables was filled as reports on education, treatment, workforce, mental health and housing were made by area agencies at the Washington County Hub meeting at the Gold Star Park community building Thursday.

The hub, formerly called the opioid hub, was formed last year under the guidance of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board to coordinate services and aid between government agencies, nonprofits and other community leaders in response to the drug epidemic in Washington County.

At Thursday’s meeting, Fort Frye Local Schools Superintendent Stephanie Starcher notified attendees that the education subcommittee has discussed a tandem notification program for school systems to be informed when a child has experienced some form of trauma and was visited at home by a first responder.

“It’s called ‘Handle with Care,’ and it’s a simple notification that lets the teachers through the administration know ‘hey, this child should be dealt with how we’ve been trained, with trauma-informed care,'” she explained.

Life and Purpose Director of Clinical Services Janice McFarland reported from the treatment subcommittee that plans are moving forward for a physical community resource center at 274 Front St. in Marietta to be open this summer.

She and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services representative Robin Bozian explained that the intended purpose of the center will be to have volunteer/VISTA Corps members helping individuals navigate through resources offered by agencies and nonprofits in the area when looking for treatment, housing, utility aid, food and other social services.

McFarland said the center would be open after regular business hours to ensure the targeted populations have more opportunities to utilize the resource.

Washington County Job and Family Services Director Flite Freimann reported back from the workforce subcommittee that both progress and a new challenge have formed in conversations with employers considering hiring those with a criminal and drug past.

“The reality is they all outsource their background checks and so when the felony comes up, that application is automatically tossed out the window,” he explained. “So one challenge is in getting employers to change that flag of practice and recognize that not all felonies are the same in the system. Maybe a heroin possession fifth-degree felony shouldn’t be treated the same as a third-degree felonious assault.”

He also noted the way that those who are applying to jobs tell their story of recovery has become a challenge the committee will continue to discuss.

“A lot of those truly measurable skills clients in recovery have are the very skills employers say they want, but when they hear first about a criminal record or a past with drugs, they (cover their ears) and say ‘I don’t want to know,'” Freimann explained.

Bozian also identified that an additional subcommittee may need to be formed concerning transportation, as the area affects employment, drug court participation and access to treatment services.

Washington County Health Commissioner Dick Wittberg encouraged those present to attend the Way to Go meeting put on by Washington-Morgan Community Action at the O’Neill Center on Fourth Street in Marietta at 10 a.m. April 23.

The next full Washington County Hub meeting will take place at 1 p.m. July 11 in the Gold Star Park community room .