WARSAW — An Opioid Crisis Community Call Out was held last night, Dec. 11, at the Center Lake Park pavilion. The event served as a gathering for all people concerned about the current opioid crisis.
A Bridge To Hope organized the event with help from The Bowen Center. Thirteen panelists spoke about their local interactions with opioids and what the community can do moving forward to address the issue. The panel included Mickey Ashpole, president of A Bridge To Hope; Jer Mullins, CDO of Fort Wayne Recovery Center; Warsaw Mayor Joseph Thallemer; Kosciusko Sheriff Rocky Goshert; Warsaw Police Chief Scott Whitaker; Judge Michael Reed; Judge David Cates; Coroner Tony Ciriello; Megan Fisher, director of addiction services at The Bowen Center; Catherine Southworth, recovery center director at The Bowen Center; Andy Cochran, Indiana State Police; Kyle Dukes, Indiana State Police; and Dr. William Remington, county health officer.
Warsaw Mayor Joseph Thallemer addressed the crowd and emphasized that two things needed to happen to tackle the opioid epidemic. “We must all work together to pursue and arrest the drug dealers and prosecute and lock them away … Second, the destructive forces of addiction must be addressed by our community. We need to expand local options for all users, those with resources and those without.”
Sheriff Rocky Goshert noted that the arrest circle needed to end. Instead of arresting the same people over and over, he stressed rehabilitation while incarcerated. “We’ve got to decide this battle is worth fighting and it’s worth fighting all in,” said Goshert. He also spoke about new officer safety measures and a Jail Chemical Addiction Program the department is looking into implementing.
Judge David Cates serves as the juvenile court judge. He shared that the opioid epidemic is spreading to the juveniles in the community. Juvenile filings are up 32 percent this year, which Cates closely relates to drugs. “We need to head it off as soon as we can … If you never use, you can never be addicted.”
Coroner Tony Ciriello shared that there has been 23 opioid related deaths this year, which averages around two each month. The deaths ranged from 13 years old to 61 years old. “No person should have to bury their child as a result of a drug problem …. We, as a community, need to stand up against it.”
Bowen Center representatives Megan Fisher and Catherine Southworth spoke about the stigma related with opioid addiction. They emphasized that addiction really is a medical disease that can affect anyone. The solution they presented medication-assisted treatment. Currently, the Warsaw Bowen Center provides some medication-assisted treatment and a Methadone clinic will be opening soon in Fort Wayne that will also serve Kosciusko County residence.
Mary Gerard, vice president of human resources closed the event. She stressed that the event’s outreach didn’t end last night and that this will be a continuing mission. More panels will be held in future months to further education and spur solutions.
Many informational booths were available to answer questions after the event. Attendees were also provided with a list of 50 things everyone can do to combat the opioid epidemic. The list included things like properly disposing of prescription medications, organizing a speaker at your club or organization, volunteering at a recovery site and discussing alternative pain medications with your medical providers.