United effort against drug crisis vital

As Ohioans begin to understand the degree to which the substance abuse crisis will require attack from a united front, if we are to defeat it, Washington County’s Behavioral Health Board was assigned the task of overseeing the establishment of our Opioid Hub — a way for various service agencies to work together to chip away at the problem.

Setting aside the fact that the use of the word “Opioid” in naming the project is already a bit dated and out-of-sync with the reality of the crisis (Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks has already told us the problem is cycling back around to methamphetamines), the idea is a good one. Washington County residents who hope to break the cycle — for themselves and their families — should be able to count on a collaborative system of education and prevention, treatment and workforce cooperation.

That means, of course, it is not only the agencies that must get on board. Employers will be an important part of making any headway.

“We want to make sure that they know a recovering employee can be a great resource, not somebody who will put their business in jeopardy,” said Flite Freimann, director of the county office of Ohio Job and Family Services, who leads the workforce group.

Education and prevention could short circuit the cycle.

“Kids are more at risk if they aren’t resilient, if they don’t have coping strategies,” said Fort Frye Local Schools superintendent Stephanie Starcher, who is leading that subcommittee.

And, of course, there are the difficulties of treatment, itself. That’s where Dr. Dick Wittberg of the Washington County Health Department comes in. He is going to have to take all the goals and strategies presented by the folks working with the hub and turn them into plans of action.

“My though is that you work with the different people involved to come up with a list of the highest needs, identify two or three or four things on that list that we need to make every effort to do over the next couple of year, and make sure it happens,” he said.

It is a tall task — but surely one made more attainable by the collaborative approach.