Health officials from several Franklin County agencies presented information on how to help prevent opioid overdoses during a recent program Nov. 29 at the Bexley Public Library.

The Bexley Community Health Action Team presented the event as a follow-up to sessions held at Bexley schools in order to inform residents about drug abuse prevention and treatment.

"We wanted to make sure that the community as a whole has access to information and resources," said Bexley City Council member Mary Gottesman, a nurse practitioner who coordinates the CHAT group.

During the event, representatives from Franklin County Public Health, Columbus Public Health, Mount Carmel Health System and Franklin County Coroner Anahi M. Ortiz's office discussed risk factors for addiction, how to identify signs of an overdose and how to revive individuals experiencing an overdose.

About 20 people attended, and each was given the option to take home a medical kit that included Naloxone (better known by the brand name Narcan), which is used to revive overdose sufferers.

Ortiz said Ohio had a 32.8 percent increase in deaths related to opioid overdoses from 2015 to 2016. The epidemic has had a devastating effect on communities, but those who become addicted to opioids can successfully recover, she said.

"They need a combination of medical therapy, family therapy," Ortiz said. "Drug treatment can be as successful as treatment of other chronic diseases."

While recovery is possible, it is an ongoing process with a relapse rate of 40 to 60 percent, Ortiz said.

"You're never really cured of addiction," Ortiz said. "Just like you're never really cured of chronic diseases."

Most EMS personnel and police departments in Franklin County -- including the Bexley Police Department -- now carry Narcan, Ortiz said.

"It has made a big difference (in preventing deaths), because often (police) get there before EMS," she said.

In central Ohio, the ZIP codes with the highest number of opioid-related deaths are 43207 (Columbus' south side), 43211 (North Linden area in northeast Columbus) and 43232 (southeast Columbus), Ortiz said.

While Bexley is not among those areas, all communities have been touched by the opioid epidemic, said Steve Roth, a Mount Carmel Health representative who formerly worked as an EMS technician.

"There's no ZIP code that hasn't been affected," he said. While working in EMS, "I was on the Far East side; I was in Columbus; I was in Bexley."

Gottesman said the CHAT group will present a session in early 2018 on a date yet to be determined that will train parents and other adults to spot the signs of drug abuse among youths. For more information about drug-abuse prevention, visit www.publichealth.columbus.gov.

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