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Akron Children's Hospital Launches Addiction Treatment Program

photo of Michelle Bestic, Lea Heidman, Brian Malone, Dr. Sarah Friebert
Clinical pharmacologist/toxicologist Michelle Bestic (left), is joined by Lea Heidman, Brian Malone, and Dr. Sarah Friebert. Lea and Brian, who lost their daughter, Alyssa, at age 21 to a heroin overdose, were the first to donate money to for the program.

Akron Children’s Hospital is starting a new addiction treatment program, which will centralize many of its services that assist young people with substance-abuse issues.

The program’s start-up is being funded by $800,000 in donations, including $300,000 from a family who lost their 21-year-old daughter to opioid addiction.

Michelle Bestic is a clinical pharmacologist at Akron Children’s, and says their initial focus has been on education and prevention. She says they hope to begin studying the effects of addiction on newborns.

That includes "a component to really help the mothers that have babies that are born with physical dependence on certain substances. And (to) follow those kids long-term to see what kind of risk factors they have in the future so we don’t see a second generation of an opioid crisis.”

Bestic says the hospital is currently working with doctors to look into non-opioid pain-relief options, and in the future the program could include a medication-assisted outpatient treatment center.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.