Pubdate: Thu, 14 Jul 2011
Source: Ironton Tribune (OH)
Copyright: 2011 Ironton Tribune
Author: Dr. Terry A. Johnson, State Representative for Ohio's 89th District


On Sunday evening, 10 July 2011, Director Gil Kerlikowske of the White
House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) visited
Portsmouth and hosted a town hall-style discussion on prescription
drug abuse.

Fittingly, the meeting was held in the auditorium of the newly
dedicated Second Chance Center, a facility that offers hope for people
recovering from addiction.

Invited to sit on the panel with the Director of ONDCP were U.S.
Senator Rob Portman, U.S. Attorney's Office Criminal Chief Ken Parker,
Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine, Director of Ohio's Department of
Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Orman Hall, Scioto County Health
Commissioner Dr. Aaron Adams, and me.

The auditorium of the Second Chance Center was packed. Interested
folks came from near and far.

Our local Prescription Drug Action Team was well represented with many
members in the audience, as well as a number of people from our
Surviving Our Loss and Continuing Everyday (SOLACE) group.

After a welcome by Dr. Adams, Orman Hall, the master of ceremonies for
the evening, introduced the panelists, starting with Director

Kerlikowske praised our local efforts to fight this problem, which he
says is spreading to all parts of America at an alarming rate. He said
that our problem has gained national attention, and what we are doing
to fight back is an inspiration to the entire nation.

Attorney General Mike Dewine also applauded the efforts of our local
citizens, and introduced former Adams County Prosecutor Aaron Haslam,
lauding his efforts as a prosecutor focused on attacking the criminal
aspects of the drug problem. Dewine has built a team around Haslam;
pursuing these cases is their only task.

Dewine pledged continued support from his office, calling the
prescription drug problem a scourge that must be ended.

Sen. Rob Portman spoke, providing an update on his efforts to help
local and state officials obtain federal grants, to facilitate
communication across state lines, and on his efforts to establish a
national drug reporting system that will make Ohio's current data base
much more effective at stopping "doctor shoppers" and "pill mills."

He also offered encouraging words on the possibility of bringing our
local area under a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)
designation, which could bring much needed resources to bear.

What the senator said was so important because that sort of federal
help and interstate cooperation will be crucial in the months to come.

Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Aaron Adams, a central leader in
our local fight who gained nationwide attention when he declared the
prescription drug abuse problem in Scioto County a "public health
emergency," spoke passionately about where the struggle has been and
where it needs to go.

He talked about his concern for the proliferation of prescription drug
use by our youth, especially in high school, and the explosion of
hepatitis-C infection from needle based drug abuse.

Dr. Adams served on Governor Strickland's Rx Drug Abuse Task Force and
has been a strong leader locally and throughout the state.

I also spoke.

As I always do in such opportunities, I emphasized that our successes,
which have been many, have only come because we have risen up as a
community; that we must continue to see our efforts in the context of
a disciplined team and that we must realize that lasting success will
come from the recognition that the mission is bigger than any one person.

We must continue to lock arms and move forward together.

I praised the national director for seeing the problem holistically:
It is complex and defies simple solutions and must be attacked on many
fronts. I thanked everyone in the crowd for being involved, and
challenged them to reach out to our youth by coaching and mentoring
and stepping up for leadership in positive groups like 4-H and Scouts.

I called out Dr. Darren Adams, my successor as county coroner, and
lifted up the important work he is doing with mapping and data
collection of drug fatalities. I praised our own Al Oliver for his
creative "Get On Base, Not On Drugs" Little League patch, and
encouraged others to emulate his example.

We must do all we can to keep our youngsters from falling prey to this
evil thing.

I pointed out that media attention to our problem is a necessary
thing, but that I hope the media will report with equal zeal the
progress we are making. I told the group how proud I am of them, and
how much I love them and my community.

And I attributed all of our successes to God, and asked those who were
praying to pray more often -- and harder!

I see this as nothing less than an all-important battle to heal our

We must make this wonderful place, so rich in history and so full of
potential, well again.

We have to acknowledge that even though we have been severely tested,
we should count our blessings and realize that all could be worse, and
will become worse, unless we continue to take charge and do all we can
to help ourselves.

What has happened to us in this prescription drug crisis is nothing
short of a calamity. Out of this one problem has come far too much
misery for one small area to bear.

And yet we are strong.

We are fighting back. And I for one refuse to lose
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.