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Mahoning opioid summit explores causes of addiction

Legal News Reporter

Published: May 10, 2018

According to Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health & Recovery Board, there were 114 accidental opioid-related overdose deaths in the county in 2017 compared to the previous year when 84 people died.

As the numbers continue to rise, he said the board is doing its part to raise awareness about prevention and treatment, joining hands with the Mahoning County Juvenile Court in sponsoring a series of community opioid summits, each one designed to tackle a different issue.

The third summit takes place tomorrow May 11 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Social Hall.

The two-hour event entitled “Addiction: Is it a Choice?” will feature panelists Lt. Jerad Sutton of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Dr. Daniel Brown, chief medical officer at Meridian HealthCare, Joseph Sitarik, D.O., medical director of the Neil Kennedy Recovery Centers as well as recovery speakers.

“The summit is intended to be a safe forum in which residents can learn more about addiction,” said Mahoning County Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick. “Our experts will discuss what addiction does to the brain and some of the measures law enforcement is taking to help combat the problem.

“One thing most of those who are in recovery will tell you is that using drugs for the first time was a choice,” said Judge Dellick. “However, when someone becomes addicted, many times through prescription drugs, it’s no longer a choice but a disease.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription and illegal opioids killed over 42,000 people in the United States in 2016.

West Virginia had the highest number of overdose deaths in the country in 2016 (52.0 per 100,000) and Ohio ranked second (39.1 per 100,000).

“It’s important that people in the community know what’s being done to combat this growing problem,” said Judge Dellick.

The judge said the summit is being held at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Social Hall in order to provide more space for those who want to attend.

The Nov. 3, 2017 and Feb. 21 summits took place at the Covelli Centre and Judge Dellick said they attracted hundreds of people, some who had to be turned away due to lack of space.

“We want to make sure there is enough room for everyone,” said Judge Dellick.

The judge said the summits were started to combat the many myths about addiction that exist in the community.

“We wanted the public to have the facts,” she said.

Piccirilli said the idea for the May 11 event came from a question that was raised by a participant at the February summit.

“Someone in the audience asked if early childhood trauma was a cause of addiction,” he said. “We have recovery speakers who will tell you that they had a very good childhood and still became addicted.”

“The fact remains that there are many routes to addiction,” said Judge Dellick.

“One trend that we are seeing now is marijuana that’s been laced with fentanyl and other opioids,” said Piccirilli.

“We are also seeing overdose victims with more than three kinds of drugs in their systems.”

Piccirilli said the good news is that the rate at which overdose deaths is rising in Mahoning County appears to be slowing down in comparison to the rest of the state.

“This can be attributed to many factors, including the Mahoning County Juvenile Court’s Early Warning System program, the Quick Response Team at the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office as well as placing peer supporters in emergency rooms to provide support to people experiencing an overdose,” Piccirilli said.

Tomorrow’s summit is free and open to the public. It gets underway at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Social Hall in Youngstown.

The event will also be live streamed on the Mahoning County Juvenile Court Advisory Board Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JJCMahoning/).