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Medina County Opiate Task Force honors those fighting opiate epidemic

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    The Medina County Opiate Task Force met Friday morning at Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital and handed out four awards for dedication to fighting the opiate epidemic. Those honored were Matt Hiscock, second from left, the director of public safety for the city of Wadsworth; Stefanie Robinson, formerly with the Recovery Center of Medina County and now with Judge Joyce V. Kimbler’s drug court; Medina County Sheriff Tom Miller; and Jeannie and Bob Brandt, of Robby’s Voice. Also pictured are Krista Wasowski, left, commissioner of the Medina County Health Department, and Tiffany Shelton, planning and program director for the Medina County ADAMH Board.

    BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE

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WADSWORTH — About 60 people attended the Medina County Opiate Task Force meeting Friday at the Wadsworth-Rittman Hospital’s Founders Hall.

Krista Wasowski, commissioner of the Medina County Health Department, surmised that every one of them has been touched by opiates in one way or another.

The task force meets about four times a year, she said. Friday’s meeting was to hand out awards to those in the group from the Health Department and Medina County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board. Wasowski said the award winners were dedicated to fighting the opiate epidemic in the county:

  • Matt Hiscock, director of public safety for the city of Wadsworth — Wasowski called him a behind-the-scenes crusader for the addiction crisis.
    He admits he started on the other side of the fence while working as a prosecutor and FBI agent. He thought that all drug abusers were bad people.
    Hiscock said he’s since changed his tune coming to work for the city and being a part of the Wadsworth Drug Free Community Coalition, which started in 2016. He was instrumental is getting the Community Assessment and Treatment Services drug treatment facility to open in Wadsworth.
    “It’s opened my eyes,” he said. “I’ve changed my opinion on lots of different aspects of the drug crisis. I understand the human element, as to how drugs affect individuals, families and communities.
    “People do survive these types of things. Families survive these types of things.”
  • Tom Miller, Medina County sheriff — In law enforcement, often times for drug abusers, it’s “lock ’em up, get them off the streets,” Wasowski said.
    That’s not necessarily now Miller operates. He helps people in the community that have drug problems. She said he makes things happen in Medina County.
    Miller has been sheriff since January 2013. He was formerly a Brunswick policeman and a member of Brunswick’s City Council. He serves on the ADAMH Board.
  • Bob and Jeannie Brandt, Robby’s Voice — He recently stepped down from running the Recovery Center of Medina County when he didn’t agree with serving alcohol at Serenite Restaurant and Culinary Institute. He continues to use his mission at Robby’s Voice to raise awareness about drug addiction.
    They speak to several schools about drug addiction. He said they run a family support group at The LCADA Way Wellness & Recovery in the Medina office on Mondays. He said a new class will be added on Wednesday in the Wadsworth office.
  • Stefanie Robinson, former director of the Recovery Center of Medina County and now with Medina County Common Pleas Judge Joyce V. Kimbler’s drug court — “She has put herself entirely into helping others,” Wasowski said. “Stefanie is dedicated in helping people get treatment and to coach them through their recovery. She is highly regarded to those in recovery. She has her finger on the pulse in the recovery community.
    “Her words are encouraging, motivational and meaningful. Even though her words are comforting to those who she speaks with, she speaks the truth. There are no excuses with Stefanie. She will call you out if she thinks you’re not being sincere.”
    Robinson said she’s been in recovery for 9½ years.
    “I thank you that I can live in a community that is giving recovery a voice.
    “We have this drug issue. I think we wan to fix people. I wasn’t broken. I had a disease that needed treated. I think we have to treat the individual and fix the community around us. I believe that is what we’re doing in Medina County.”

In other news:

  • Gary Hubbard, director of the Medina County Drug Task Force, said he’s seeing a steady decline in heroin overdoses.
    “We’re starting to see cocaine and methamphetamine increases,” he said. “A lot of the people addicted to heroin are switching to methamphetamine. It’s extremely pure. It’s not the one-pot labs we used to see when houses were burning down. We’re not seeing them at all any more.
    “It’s all crystal methamphetamine coming in from Mexico. The chance of them overdosing and dying are drastically reduced.”
    He said the average age of men and women overdosing are 31 and 32, respectively.
    He said in 2016, there were 260 opiate-related overdoses in Medina County. That number went down to 246 in 2017.
    So far this year, there have been 22 overdoses. At this time in 2017, there had been 79.
    “There has been a significant decline,” Hubbard said.
    “What we’re doing as a whole is working.”
  • The Opiate Response Team, a collaboration between Alternative Paths and the Medina County Sheriff’s Office, will meet with individuals that overdose and try to find appropriate treatment. It kicked off in November, said Gail Houk of Alternative Paths.
    The response team has had 44 referrals up to the end of March. The team has met with 31 of the referrals either face-to-face or on the phone.
    Houk said 23 of them have been set up with treatment, with 71 percent of them following through with the treatment plan. Sixty-five percent of them have been in treatment for longer than 30 days.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.

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