Combating the Opioid Epidemic with Local Resources

By Amanda Joerndt

Networking allows people to meet others and learn about resources that will direct them toward a brighter future. The Trumbull County area uses its networking abilities to create prevention programs and outside resources directed toward the heroin epidemic.

The Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board is funding projects in the area to help people battling the heroin epidemic take steps in the right direction.

Lana Hennings, program coordinator at the Trumbull County board, works closely with the owners and residence of the recovery houses.

Forty-eight thousand dollars in grant money was given to the board from the Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services, which was divided among the recovery houses to help the owners run top-quality programs.

Hennings said the recovery houses are required to have the Ohio Recovery Housing certificate to work with the board.

“We only contract with people who go out and do the extra step to get certified so we know that they’re running a good quality home,” she said. “We help fund the recovery houses and offer rent stipends for individuals who are in need of recovery housing that can’t afford the rent.”

Hennings said the recovery houses give those with substance abuse disorders a chance to create a new life for themselves with the assistance of the owners and the Trumbull County board.

“Some may have burned bridges with their families because of the addiction, so a lot of them come in with nothing,” she said. “We offer them four months rent after five months, we can pay half of the rent. It’s really helpful for individuals to get back on their feet and to start looking for employment.”

Hennings said bringing in outside resources such as behavioral health and workforce development services allows the owners and residents to learn about different soft skills and how to start looking for jobs.

“I would go out and invite people to come to the meeting and give them an opportunity to share their services. I’ve networked with people so it’s really helped me get to know the resources in Trumbull County,” she said. “There’s things you find out everyday to help the residences and the owners.”

A First-Hand Experience with Recovery Homes

Lyndsey Handel lived in recovery houses, which helped her overcome her long-term addiction. She has been in a total of 23 treatment centers since the age of 14.

With 14 months of sobriety, Handel said her time living at the houses made her stronger and ready to take on the next chapter in her life. Handel, a Warren, Ohio, resident, said in January 2018 she surrendered to making a new life for herself.

“I lost a lot and caused a lot of pain, and I had nothing to lose anymore before I went into treatment and the houses,” she said. “I lost custody of my son and the guilt of everything I had created was keeping me out there. I was scared to go into treatment because I always ended up failing, but I couldn’t even worry about that.”

Handel said she started at a First Step Recovery house but then transferred to The Ruthie B House a couple of months later.

“We had a morning meditation at 8 a.m. and we would go around and talk. I was also in an outpatient treatment and I would go to counseling three days a week,” she said. “We had a curfew, drug testing and we each had a chore to do. Everyone was super welcoming, but at the same time, everyone had their own thing going on.”

Handel said communicating with her family was a tough transition after successfully ending her time at the recovery houses.

“At first, the only person I was speaking to was my mother and everyone had written me off at that point,” she said. “I wasn’t allowed to talk to my son Caleb, and I think I spoke to my sister the second week I was out of the house.”

Handel said she feels happy now, and has let go of all of her guilt and shame.

“A positive mindset and attitude is everything to just keep moving forward,” she said.

Combating Addiction Through Prevention Programs

While recovery houses in Trumbull County are growing more each year, prevention programs are helping substance abusers and their families now more than ever.

Lauren Thorp, director of recovery and youth programs at the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, directs the ASAP: Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.

Thorp said once the coalition started focusing more on the epidemic, the program started to grow immensely in the community.

“We usually have some type of presentation and work on plans at the meetings,” she said. “We break into work groups and figure out what we need to do in our plan this year. We talk about some events and what we can create so we’re always just evaluating with what’s currently going on in the community.”

She said about 30 to 40 members attend each meeting and there are about 300 people on the statewide email list keeping them informed on the coalition.

“All people are around the same problem but they’re seeing it in very different ways. I really want them to come to the meetings so they can share with me what they’re seeing and how it’s influencing their lives,” she said. “Without their information, we can’t come up with programs that are needed.”

Thorp said one focus the coalition has for prevention toward the epidemic is safe disposal of medications within people’s homes.

“We host two events each year with the sheriff’s office. People can come and drop off medications for safe [disposal],” she said. “It’s huge because so many people say when they get medications to abuse, they are receiving them right in the home. It’s all about decreasing accessibility and cleaning out the medicine cabinet.”

Thorp said ending the opioid epidemic needs to be an effort from the whole community to help combat the addiction.

“I do think it will decrease this year but not necessarily for the reasons I think a lot of people are turning to,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot more people going into treatment and more lives are being saved. This isn’t just an opioid problem at this point, it’s an addiction problem in our community.”