By Wayne Allen
The Scioto County and Portsmouth area can be defined by many things. The Office of National Drug Control Policy has defined this area as a success when it comes to implementing programs to combat prescription drug abuse.
U.S. Senator from West Virginia Shelly More-Capito’s Washington D.C. drug policy staff were in Portsmouth, talking to Lisa Roberts and others at the Portsmouth City Health Department about what the community has done to combat prescription abuse. Those that came to Portsmouth were referred by United States Drug Czar and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency in Washington D.C.
“You wouldn’t believe how this epidemic is changing the way our country is looking at addiction, disease, and deaths now and Appalachia is leading the way in many respects,” Roberts said. “The tide is slowly turning. Been a long time coming.”
Roberts and others believe the drug abuse epidemic has become a national crisis.
“Scioto County was one of the first areas that saw this; we’re farther down the road than a lot of people. We’ve had to implement a lot of integrative harm reduction strategies,” Roberts said.
She used the example of implementing a Naloxone program, and work on opiate prescribing rates with local prescribers.
“We’ve seen a significant reduction in pain pill overdose rates. We have, however, like the rest of the nation, seen a significant increase in heroin overdose rates,” Roberts said.
Because of the successes and programs implements in Scioto County, there has been interest from other communities on how to replicate the successes in their community.
“We’ve helped Huntington, West Virginia, and their mayor’s task force gets their programs up and running. We’ve helped Kentucky, the state has passed some heroin legislation that allows them to do harm reduction strategies,” Roberts said. “The office of National Drug Control Policy, which is the agency in charge of this national crisis, has been ending people to us for advice. In (Washington) D.C. they are looking for ways they can fund and help, states and communities deal with this.”
Roberts said being referred by the Office of National Drug Control Policy is a good thing for the area.
“I think we’ve been good at figuring out the big picture and what needs to happen,” Roberts said.
On Monday, Aug. 31, Scioto County will host an International Overdose Awareness Day Event. The event is aimed at bringing awareness of overdose and reduces the stigma of a drug-related death. The event will take place at the Fastop Market on 8th Street in Portsmouth from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and is open to the public.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT