'A public health crisis': Pickerington to hold drug forum
Fairfield County organizations are working together to take their communities back from addiction to prescription medications.
Pickerington High School North will host a forum at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 where several local government offices, law enforcement and health officials will have a panel discussion on the state of the Fairfield communities and the next steps needed to combat prescription drug abuse. The forum also will help educate parents on how to know what to do and where to go to deal with this problem.
“The goal is to provide education to Pickerington and Violet Township on what I believe is the most serious public health and crisis situation in our area,” Fairfield County Executive Director Orman Hall said.
Hall says studies show prescription opiates such as oxycodone, percocet and vicodin are widely prevalent in the area. A study done in 2009 on jail inmates from the years 2003 and 2008 showed that the county spent $350,000 in 2003 on those who were incarcerated and addicted to opiates. In 2008, the county spent $2.5 million.
“Prescription pain killers are virtually identical to heroin,” Hall said. “Vicodin is the No. 1 prescribed drug for chronic pain. Many who get addicted move on to heroin.”
A 2010 Youth Survey Data was conducted in May in Fairfield County school districts, with 2,533 county sophomores and seniors participating. Data showed that 58 percent of those students live in households where someone had received a pain pill prescription.
“That gives them access,” Hall said. “It’s right there in the medicine cabinet.”
Pickerington Schools Superintendent Karen Mantia said she urges every parent in the school district to attend.
“If there is any time parents can spend wisely, this is the forum,” she said.
The youth study also showed that 9.1 percent of teens in grade 12 had used opiates in the past.
“With 13.9 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone averaging 52 pills for everyone living in the area, this is happening to a large number of people,” Hall said. “It’s a public crisis. It’s a serious addiction and is very evasive at this time.”
The forum is sponsored by Fairfield County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board; Prevention Works for a Drug Free Fairfield County; Family, Adult and Children First Council; Pickerington Local Schools; Pickerington Police Department; the City of Pickerington and Violet Township.
“We need to stop people from getting opiate addiction from this point,” Hall said. “We need to educate the public on which drugs are opiates and teach them that addiction occurs very quickly. We’ve got to get that message out.”