A generous financial commitment by a Columbus couple, Mark and Wendy Elwood, has given a local opioid abuse task force a strong kickstart as it unveiled solutions to begin making a difference.

The Elwoods agreed to provide $500,000 in matching grants for donations made in the fight against opioid abuse, generating $1 million if met by March 31.

Their donation was announced Oct. 24 at the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress in Bartholomew County meeting in The Commons.

Mark Elwood, CEO of Columbus-based Elwood Staffing, and Wendy Elwood, a board member of the Heritage Fund – The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, said the funding is to maintain momentum of local initiatives, combat the epidemic through educational programs to prevent children and young adults from using drugs and to encourage the entire community to respond.

This funding is helpful because the need is significant:

  • Local officials believe at least 1,000 county residents suffer from opioid addiction
  • An average of 70 overdoses per month have reported this year
  • 17 of the 23 overdose deaths reported this year were opioid-based
  • An increasing number of babies are being born locally with neonatal abstinence syndrome, meaning they were exposed to drugs in womb and suffer withdrawal symptoms after birth
  • Resources available in health care and criminal justice systems are strained
  • Employers say few referral services exists for those who fail pre-employment drug tests

Thankfully, the local initiative is working on solutions. Notably, at least one new residential treatment center will be opened by the end of 2018.

Some other solutions expected in the near future:

  • Nurse coaches for expectant mothers, including possible addicts
  • Establishing a family recovery court for cases involving parental rights that arise from substance abuse
  • Updating health and science curriculum in Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. to address the opioid crisis

The financial commitment by the Elwoods to fight the opioid crisis is a difference-maker for the local effort. This help is greatly appreciated, as is the incentive it provides for others to pitch in.

Opioid addiction is a serious problem locally that requires everyone doing their part to make a difference. Here’s a perfect opportunity to help.

How to donate

Donations can be made for the matching grant program announced during Tuesday’s substance abuse forum through the Heritage Fund – The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.

Contributions to help address addictions and substance abuse may be made via check, and either mailed or dropped off at the Heritage Fund office, 538 Franklin St., Columbus, IN 47201.

Donations can also be made online at heritagefundbc.org/donate/

Contributors are asked to type “Mark & Wendy Elwood Substance Abuse Prevention Fund” in the “Name” field.

For more information, contact the Heritage Fund at 812-376-7772.