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Combat an Epidemic Through Education

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Deaths due to drug overdoses have increased dramatically, not only across the nation, but here in Portage County as well. Beyond becoming a major public health issue, this epidemic has serious consequences on the community as a whole. That’s why the Portage County Health Department and Mental Health Recovery Board have joined together with local churches, schools, and community officials to bring the Project DAWN program to local residents. Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone) is a community-based drug overdose prevention and education program that provides Naloxone kits to community members in order to help someone suffering from an overdose and preventing a death.

Several area churches, community leaders, and the Crestwood School District have collaborated to bring the Project DAWN program to the local community. “We are concerned about the devastating impact of opioid use and addiction and its horrible impact on the children and their family members throughout our community and Portage County,” shared Crestwood Superintendent David Toth. “If we can educate the community on this issue and help anybody avoid the pitfalls of this epidemic, it is all worth it.”

Attendees at each of three community programs will learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of an overdose and distinguish between different types of overdoses, from accidental overdose of prescription narcotics to overdoses of illicit drugs .  They’ll be armed with instructions on how to perform rescue breathing, when to call emergency medical services, and how to administer intranasal Naloxone. Participants will also be provided with contact information for treatment and service resources within Portage County. Upon completion of the class, participants will also receive a Project DAWN kit that contains 2 doses of nasal Naloxone, 2 nasal atomizers, 1 face mask for CPR, an instructional DVD, and referral information. The kits and education are free to Portage County residents. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a safe, non-habit forming medication that is used to reverse an overdose from an opioid drug (heroin or prescription pain medications). This drug reverses the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system in order to prevent death.

“The meetings are important because it will help raise general awareness about the dangers of opioids,” explained Pastor Chad Delaney from the Mantua Center Christian Church. “With more understanding, people can gain more compassion for those families and individuals going through it,” he added. “The effects of these drugs on families is devastating and these folks need places to feel safe to express their grief and difficulties, and also a place to find hope and healing,” Pastor Delaney concluded.

Make plans to join with others in your community in the discussion about the spike in heroin and opioid overdoses in Portage County. “I encourage parents, guardians, and trusted mentors to talk to our children about this issue,” Superintendent Toth continued. “Research shows that children of parents who talk to their teens about drugs are up to 50% less likely to use. Schools cannot do it alone.” “It takes a village to raise a child. So as a community we are coming together to do what we can do to stop this epidemic,” Toth concluded.

All events are free, open to the public, and are handicap accessible. The first will be held on Wednesday, August 31st from 6:30-8:30pm at Crestwood Intermediate School. Another will be held on Saturday, September 24th from10am- noon at Hiram’s Rosser Municipal Building, and the last meeting will be held on Saturday, October 22nd from10am-noon at the Shalersville Town Hall. Residents are invited to attend any event.

Project DAWN is being made available through the partnership of the Portage County Health Department and Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County. For more information or questions call Kat at 330.296.9919 Ext. 107 or Becky at Ext. 137.

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Stacy Turner is a wife, mother, and contributing reporter who has lived in the Mantua/Hiram area for over a dozen years. After enjoying a career in marketing, where she spent her time writing on behalf of other people, she gets a kick out of writing under her own name. Mostly, she enjoys the opportunity to learn more about her community through the stories she covers.