One person dies every single day in our community from heroin addiction.
Heroin and opiate use has gone up in Columbus over the last five years – and these drugs were culpable in more than 70 percent of overdose deaths in Franklin County. In 2016, Columbus Division of Fire administered naloxone more than 2,300 times.
Opiate addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that devastates families and entire communities. Like all communities, African Americans have faced addiction before. Sadly in this epidemic, they face additional challenges such as access to services, stigma and treatment by the justice system. These disparities make treating an already complicated chronic medical condition even more challenging for African Americans.
Opiates are a community problem and we need to fight this epidemic just like we do any other disease outbreak to protect the health of African Americans – and all residents – suffering from substance use disorder.
Columbus Public Health is working with community partners on a multi-faceted approach to address health disparities and ensure we help our most vulnerable residents who are already addicted get treatment and prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place.
Last year, we helped launch the comprehensive harm reduction program Safe Point at Equitas Health to provide naloxone, clean needles, and access to counseling or treatment to those who are suffering from the disease of addiction.
We also can prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place by targeting the excess availability of prescription pain medications through clinical guidelines and practice interventions such as prescription drug monitoring programs. We also need to educate families on the importance of safeguarding prescribed drugs at home so they are not misused by their loved ones and friends.
We all have a role to play in addressing this crisis. I urge you to join us so we can protect the health and improve the lives of everyone who is impacted by the disease of addiction.
If you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, help is available! Call or visit Safe Point at (614) 460-1406 or safepointohio.org.