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Summit County's Opiate Abatement Advisory Council invites public input

The Summit County Public Health building
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The Summit County Public Health Opiate Abatement Advisory Council is seeking public input.

Summit County's Opiate Abatement Advisory Council wants guidance from community members on efforts to prevent and treat substance abuse.

The council was formed after Summit County Public Health joined 21 communities in suing opioid makers, distributers and pharmacies.

The 2017 suit ended with a $104 million settlement to be used for education, harm reduction, treatment, prevention and other drug abuse prevention measures.

So far, the council has spent $7.3 million toward its mission of responding to opioid deaths, expanding treatment in the county and rebuilding the community in the midst of the opioid epidemic. The council's funding evaluation work group works with organizations that receive this funding.

“They’ve been very thoughtfully putting out dollars to help combat opioid use disorder and to help individuals become opioid free,” Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said.

Upcoming virtual meetings will give community members the opportunity to advise the council and provide insight on issues of substance use and treatment.

Skoda said the industry needs to encourage community engagement on public health issues.

“Public health, drug and alcohol addiction, you name it, we all have a bad habit of not including the right people in our conversation,” she said. “If you really want to get at some of the root issues and what is needed, I think you have to talk to the persons you are trying to serve.”

In addition to the virtual meetings, Summit County Public Health has many addiction programs promoting harm reduction, such as a syringe exchange program, drug prevention education and provision of Narcan.

In utilizing collaboration with people in the community and programs to fund drug prevention, Skoda said there is an opportunity for healing.

“I think it’s important folks understand that it’s an open process and we really like that,” she said. “The whole purpose is, you respond to the loss of life and opioid use, and then people do recover and get a chance to rebuild their lives which is why we’re here.”

The council’s public virtual meetings will be held Feb. 8, May 10 and Aug. 9. You can register to attend at this google form.

Grace Springer is a third-year journalism student at Kent State University. She is the General Assignment Editor for KentWired and covers executive administration for student media.