Second Your Voice MOV forum discusses opioid addictions

‘There are just too many people dying’

Doug Oplinger, with Your Voice Ohio, moderates the second of three local forums as part of the Your Voice MOV held Monday at the Belpre Masonic Lodge. A third meeting will be 6-8 p.m. today at the Washington County Fairgrounds clubhouse in Marietta. (Photo by Wayne Towner)

BELPRE — The second of three forums to discuss opioids and addiction issues was held Monday evening in Belpre.

Your Voice MOV held a meeting at the Belpre Masonic Lodge on Putnam Howe Drive which drew about 30 people, including doctors, businesspeople, volunteers, residents and some who self-identified as recovering addicts.

The third meeting will be 6-8 p.m. today at the Washington County Fairgrounds clubhouse at 922 Front St. in Marietta.

The moderator was Doug Oplinger, with Your Voice Ohio. He said the program is an outgrowth of efforts to raise awareness and combine the information and resources of media organizations and outlets to get information out to and back from the communities they serve.

“There are just too many people dying” from opioid addictions, he said during his introductory remarks to the people in attendance.

Monday’s program revolved primarily around small-group and large-group discussions about the issues surrounding opioid and other addictions. At different points during the two-hour session, Oplinger posed a question for the group at large, the smaller groups at different tables discussed each question and the issues they believed it raised among themselves and then the whole group listed their answers as a whole for everyone to see.

The primary questions discussed at Monday’s forum included: What do you think the addiction crisis looks like in your community; What do you see as the causes of the addiction crisis; and What steps can be taken to combat addiction in the community.

Between each question discussion session, those at the tables moved about so a different group considered each one.

For the first question, much of the discussion involved impacts on families, especially the growing impact on children, whether directly or due to family disruptions caused by drug use.

Those discussing the issue agreed that addiction affects all levels across the board, regardless of age, economic status, education or any other societal description. Even those not directly involved in drug use can be impacted by the issue through broken relationships and family disruptions.

There was also discussion of the costs to the community, both financially and the drain on resources among health service providers and first responders. Some raised the issue of dehumanization of people struggling with addiction by the community at large.

A wide variety of addiction causes were cited for the second question, ranging from easy access, self-medication by people trying to address physical, psychological or emotional issues, peer pressure, and isolation.

The third question, regarding potential solutions, drew a lot of discussion such as education, especially at an earlier age, counseling, and teaching things like coping skills and ways to address the issues that often result in, but are also buried by, drug use and addiction. The importance of having information about available resources and how to make that information available to people affected by addiction, whether directly or indirectly, was discussed.

As moderator of the local meetings and others around the state of Ohio, Oplinger said each meeting is special because each community has its own personality. He thought Monday’s meeting in Belpre drew a few more people without direct information or knowledge about addiction issues who were seeking knowledge regarding those to increase their personal understanding.

“What a great opportunity for them to meet some people who are struggling with addiction. It was a real awakening, on both sides. This really helps people think about the different forces at work here,” he said.

Oplinger said the meetings Sunday in Parkersburg and Monday in Belpre drew larger than anticipated crowds and he is glad to see that occurring. Following the final meeting, Oplinger said, he will be collecting the information and look at ways to disseminate it to community news outlets, along with recommendations and ideas about ways to assist those communities.

“We will also put together a report. We already did one in Ohio to state officials about what we learned and that was a real good experience for them. Maybe from this work there will be something that can be taken to the business and community leaders in the Parkersburg-Marietta area that helps them think about ‘What can we do together to try and resolve this crisis,'” Oplinger said.

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