What’s Next MOV discusses opioid crisis with Wood County Commission

Photo by Brett Dunlap Lisa Hartline and Jean Ambrose address the Wood County Commission on Thursday about the continuing opioid crisis in the area.

PARKERSBURG — Addiction is something that affects the entire community, whether people deal with it directly or not, representatives of a community action group told Wood County officials Thursday.

Representatives from What’s Next MOV appeared before the Wood County Commission Thursday to discuss the area’s continuing opioid crisis.

The volunteer group has conducted community gatherings over the past few years on the needs of the community, concentrating on the opioid crisis over the last year or so. The group continues to meet, twice a month.

“We think of it as a community think tank,” What’s Next MOV Co-Chair Jean Ambrose said. “We are very concerned about what we need for our community to thrive.”

The group hosted community meetings throughout the area last year where various people came together to discuss the opioid situation and offer ways of addressing it.

“There is a lot of activity going on in our area regarding the opioid crisis,” Ambrose said. “There is so much knowledge, experience and wisdom among families, people in recovery, medical professionals and others who engaged in these conversations together.”

One of the things they have found repeated among a lot of people is that addiction is a disease.

“It is people are genetically predisposed to fall prey to addiction if there are triggers in their lives that set this bomb off,” Ambrose said. “We have talked a lot about what these triggers could be.”

The triggers include feelings of hopelessness, the history of exploitation in Appalachia, untreated childhood trauma, and a spiritual crisis, she said.

Those community meetings resulted in an Action Summit at WVU-P where 75 people attended to discuss actions that could be taken to address the problem.

“People in the community want to engage with the problem,” Ambrose said. “It is an issue for the entire community and it affects everybody, whether they realize it or not.”

Lisa Hartline is a recovering addict who was able to seek help in the Clarksburg area and got put on a viable road to recovery. She has since gone to law school and has been admitted to the State Bar after having been homeless.

“I have a personal interest in this,” she said.

She talked about how the Parkersburg area does not have a place where someone can walk into and say they need help in beating addiction the way she was able to do in Clarksburg. Such a program found a place for her to be able to live and do other things while she worked on her recovery. There were people who came up with a plan to address her addiction and how to treat her.

“We have a gap in our community,” Hartline said. “We don’t have a place where people can walk into and say they need help with addiction. By us not having a place says to the person who is suffering that you are not worthy.”

Officials discussed that there is a stigma in the community where a lot of people do not believe the opioid crisis does not impact them personally or that it is always far off from their own experiences.

“There is so much stigma around addiction as a disease,” Hartline said. “I think if we can change and think of it as a disease, people will start to treat it differently.”

The group is going to host a First Responder Workshop on April 10 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Judge Black Annex. They asked the commission to sponsor it and invite first responders in the area to attend. The public is also welcome to attend.

They will have three presenters:

* Dr. James Berry will discuss the physical and intellectual effects of substances on the brain, the length of recovery process and the capacity to recover.

* Dr. Larry Rhodes will talk about the factors that are prevalent in Appalachia contributing to high substance use disorder numbers.

* Lou Ortenzio will share his testimony of recovery and hope. He is a former medical doctor who became addicted to his opiate samples and began committing prescription fraud. He is now a pastor and the executive director of the Clarksburg Mission.

Commission President Blair Couch said people have to get over the stigmas they have. He hopes these kinds of events can lead to real solutions.

“There are strings in our community for people to get help,” he said. “I hope this will begin to pull those strings together.”