Turnout at forum good sign in battle against opioids

Opioid addiction is a serious and growing problem in Bartholomew County. With two new fatal overdoses reported April 21 and 23, a dozen have been reported so far this year, already matching the Bartholomew County fatal-overdose total for all of 2016. Four of this year’s overdose deaths have been confirmed as related to heroin, and four more are suspected to be due to heroin.

The encouraging news is that the community is recognizing the significance of the problem and taking a greater interest in understanding it and working toward solutions. A positive step was the turnout for the April 19 “Moving the Needle: Community Forum” at The Commons.

It drew 650 people who wanted to learn more about the national opioid epidemic from experts who have researched the issue. Local people expressed concern about the impact heroin and other opiates are having locally. That’s important because coming up with local solutions will require that residents pitch in to help.

Local stakeholders working together on the issue have formalized a task force called the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress (ASAP) in Bartholomew County. That’s greatly needed to provide direction in the local battle against opioid addiction. But because it’s a problem that impacts the community as a whole, a handful of people can’t do the job alone. A true community effort is needed.

The community forum was a great example of just that.

The audience that filled The Commons heard great suggestions from speakers, but they also raised good questions that made action team officials think about what needs to be done and where gaps exist in resources to help.

Audience suggestions included:

  • Creating a crisis center to provide vital information that could help a family member or friend
  • Creating a needle-exchange program
  • Receiving feedback from people who have been addicted

The April 19 forum was the start of a broad community discussion, and more public forums would be beneficial.

Opioid addiction is a critical issue in Columbus and nearby communities. Everyone has a vested interest in achieving solutions to curb the problem. The lives of friends and loved ones are at stake.