Funding could mean a greater push toward adolescents in recovery

By Nicole Hennessy

Avon/Avon Lake

With the 2016 general election weeks away and Lorain County ballot Issue 35 being discussed heavily countywide, alternative ideas to combat the heroin epidemic are being thrown around.

One of these ideas is a “recovery high school,” a campus on which those in need of sober living and modeling would live, study and become a part of – maybe for the first time in their lives – communities surrounding them.

“It’s a big idea,” admitted Elaine Georgas, director of Alcohol and Drug Services of Lorain County.

But it’s the kind of idea that may advance the county’s continuing care initiatives.

Georgas said a school would likely be a regional initiative, since it wouldn’t make sense for cities to fund expensive, small-scale campuses.

“We feel about 250 adolescents could benefit from continued treatment, and of those, about 50 might need a higher level of care, which could mean residential treatment,” said Georgas.

Issue 35 is a five-year, 1.2-mill levy that would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $42 per year.

If passed, the levy will generate about $7.8 million annually, which will be used primarily to allow addicts, including those without financial resources, to detox, as well as go through a residential program to help them stay drug free.

Many of those who have traveled the county giving talks agree the ability to discuss unfulfilled needs in Lorain County cities is a benefit of having this issue on the ballot.

Drug addicts looking to detox are currently funneled out to other counties, as Lorain County does not currently have options for them.

In fact, Lorain County’s residents haven’t had access to local, publicly funded detoxification services Since 1997, according to a fact sheet circulating the county.

Georgas said to reach adolescents, local organizations are currently testing recovery apps and online initiatives.

Georges explained, similar to organizations like military veteran groups, anonymous groups like Heroin or Alcoholics Anonymous are having trouble reaching the younger crowd.

Smartphone apps may be one way of reaching younger addicts in recovery. Another way is through youth leadership, including young people in the criminal justice system.

Youth empowerment, Georgas said, is all about “helping (young people) with their development and giving them a voice.”

“We put our toe in the water with youth-led prevention,” Georgas added of the current situation.

Reaching out to children involved in, or currently incarcerated through, the justice system is part of working more in this area.

Of this group, Georgas said, “They’re not even getting to our system yet. They may have a few problems; maybe they got a consumption charge or something, and maybe this might stem the tide of something and help prevent them from exacerbating their use or risk.”

Community members are just joining in on the growing discussion.

Avon City Councilman Dennis McBride suggested, in a similar fashion to the St. Jude Dream Home that’s built and raffled off in Avon each year, a sober living home may be started.

Weeks earlier McBride – worried about the costs and strains addicts, particularly those who overdose and are provided life-saving antidotes like Narcan, place on emergency responders and, ultimately, taxpayers – suggested cities prosecute drug users who overdose multiple times.

The resounding echo throughout the community was that of compassion backed up by personal loss in many cases, after more than a decade of medical professionals, federal initiatives and pharmaceutical companies pushing opioid medications geared to treat pain.

All parties are now sorting out the mess, including government entities and medical professionals, as well as taxpayers, who are now being asked to bear a cost that may be incurred in crime, foreclosure and other economic downfalls that go along with addiction in communities.

“We’ve go to figure it out sooner than later,” said Georgas.

“We’ve learned to leverage everything that we have, and it’s still not enough. But what we find is that, when people are invested, whether it’s giving their time or their resources, it’s a win-win for all partners.”

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