Health and safety on the Hilltop

By Noell Wolfgram Evans
Staff Writer

The opioid crisis is taking its toll on the westside and community leaders believe prevention and education is the key to combat the issue.

At the June 6 Greater Hilltop Area Commission meeting, several members of the Healthy Neighborhoods Office of the Columbus Public Health Department spoke regarding health trends in the Hilltop.

At a previous commission meeting, city officials conducted a community survey asking residents what health related issues are the top areas of concern in the Hilltop. The results – alcohol and drugs was first and foremost, followed by obesity/nutrition and health care.

Melissa Green of the Healthy Neighborhoods Office, took the floor to discuss drug use in the area. She said since 2003, the number of drug overdoses nationwide has risen 343 percent and two people die each day of an overdose in Franklin County. Between May 29 and June 4, 25 people on the westside were treated for an overdose by an ER doctor or by EMS.

“You can see that nobody is immune,” Green said. “Your friends. Your family. The people you see in the store. With so many people affected, there is definitely a role for each of you to play in prevention.”

Green spoke about the importance of harm reduction in the form of needle exchange programs along with education and awareness, particularly of potential “by-products” of drug use that can be seen in the spike in hepatitis c, syphilis, and HIV.

“We know this opiate crisis is having an environmental concern,” said Green. “We’ve had two Hilltop cleanups over the past two months trying to protect the larger community from some of the collateral damage that things like syringes can cause.”

In other news, a zoning presentation quickly became a larger, almost philosophical discussion on the role that businesses can, and should, play in helping each other.

A business was seeking a zoning variance to put a sign on a vacant lot. While the owners of the business live in the Hilltop, their business is located in Grove City. This disparity struck several commissioners.

J.D. Groves said, “I feel that any business that wants to utilize our valued advertising space needs to do a little more to help build the businesses in the Hilltop back up.”

He proceeded to share his concern that perhaps the focus should be on helping fill the open buildings that dot the Hilltop, not helping to promote those coming in from outside.

A discussion ensued with some arguing that essentially any development was good development, particularly on unused land. On the opposite side were those who seemed to worry about a precedent being set. In the end, with assurance from the business owner that he would look into opening an office in the Hilltop, the variation was approved.

The July meeting of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission will move to July 9 due to the Independence Day holiday.

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