How one Kiwanis club is tackling opioid abuse.
Story by Julie Saetre
Fostoria, Ohio, is a city of connections. Located at the conversion point of three counties, Fostoria is crossed by five state roads and one United States highway, and more than 100 trains travel through the city each day. But its latest connection might be one of its most crucial. This past year, the Fostoria Kiwanis Club sparked the development of H.O.P.E. in Fostoria, a task force of diverse representatives united in addressing the opioid crisis.
Ohio has the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, and the Ohio Department of Health reports that more than 86 percent of unintentional overdose deaths in 2016 involved opioids. It’s not just well-known prescription drugs and heroin that are doing the damage. Synthetic opioids fentanyl (up to 100 times stronger than heroin) and carfentanil (5,000 times stronger than heroin) are responsible for an increasing number of the state’s overdose deaths.
Kiwanian Amie Hathaway, a former president of United Way of Fostoria, decided it was time for her city to become proactive in addressing the epidemic. She approached the United Way office with an offer to join forces.
“We have the bodies (for volunteering). United Way has connections that we might not have otherwise,” she explains.
Thus began the H.O.P.E. (Heroin/Opioid Prevention/Education) initiative. Comprised of 13 volunteers from law enforcement, health care, the faith-based community, Fostoria City Schools, addiction/recovery centers and families impacted by opioid abuse, H.O.P.E. strives to serve as a resource for educating the community and steering those who need help to appropriate organizations.
Mircea Handru, the executive director of the Mental Health Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties, is a H.O.P.E. volunteer. The Mental Health Services Board contracts with various agencies that provide help for those seeking prevention, treatment and recovery support, so Handru sees the opioid impact daily.
“Heroin is an extremely hard addiction (to break),” he says. “I have personally experienced so many (clients) that I work with who have relapsed — or who relapsed and are not here anymore.”
This year, H.O.P.E. will hold a total of six educational sessions, focusing on key aspects of the crisis, from the role played by prescription drugs and signs of addiction to barriers to treatment and recovery. In the future, Handru says, task force members hope to implement long-term support services.
With opioid-related deaths surging across the United States, H.O.P.E. members know the task they face won’t be an easy one. But they refuse to be daunted.
“We realize that we may never be able to measure our impact,” says Hathaway. “But we’re all satisfied that if somebody hears the message and one life is saved, we’re golden. It will be worth every minute we put into it.
This story originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Kiwanis magazine.