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21 News collaborates with the community to help find solutions to the opioid crisis

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Changing the conversation. That was the goal 21 News had in mind when partnering with other media outlets to collaborate with the community on the growing opioid crisis.

Our team of journalists recently participated in talk-back sessions in Youngstown, Warren and Struthers. Those communities were identified as some of the hardest hit in the opioid epidemic. 

"I'm a minister and I have officiated more funerals of overdoses than I can count in the last five years. I've lost track," said Rev. James Berkebile of Struthers Parkside Church. 

It was those types of comments that left a lasting impression on how bad this epidemic is here in the Mahoning Valley.

The purpose of the meetings was to bring new voices to the table so that news organizations can report on issues that could have a positive impact on finding solutions for the opioid crisis. Many people described a positive energy and were invigorated to continue the fight.

"I'll continue to be a voice to lift the stigma off of whats going on. Saying it's really OK, I'm a person too. I'm not just that junkie that you might categorize as part of this big problem. I'm a person and I have talents and I have emotions and I have problems too but here's trying to get through this, you know what can we do, what can I do," said Philip Krauss, a recovering addict.

"To light a fire under people and say we can make a difference because I think people feel defeated because you look at how big the problem is and they say well that's a bigger problem than I am, I can't do anything about that," said Berkebile.

"It was just wonderful that at the end of every session we heard people saying what do we do next," said Doug Oplinger of Your Voice Ohio.

And that's where 21 News comes in. Our team of journalists have taken extensive notes from the talk-back sessions and over the next few weeks will use solution based reporting to try and give lawmakers, stakeholders and community members the tools they need to make a difference.

"Their are a million ideas across the board as far as what we can do and it's holding ourselves and each other accountable to going forward with these changes and actually trying to make something happen instead of talking about it endlessly and making results come out of it," said Krauss. 

Some of our reporting will be based around questions submitted by the community during the recent talk-back sessions. What kinds of questions did we get? 

Why do media continue to run photos of needles and needles in arms? Don't you know that's a trigger to someone trying to recover?

To be honest, we didn't know that. We will now consider this in our news decisions and also share with the statewide media group tackling the opioid crisis.

What are good examples of policies and programs that are working in other communities?

Some include: Needle exchanges, drug courts, data-gathering to pinpoint opioid hotspots, quick response teams, jail counseling.

Dozens of other questions were submitted and will be answered over time. Here are a few of them:

1. What are lawmakers doing?

2. How do we get people with drug-related convictions back into the workforce so that their recovery can be a success?

3. Why do our Trumbull County Sheriff, prosecutor and judges not want to look into treatment programs that are working in other parts of the country?

4. Where are the stories of recovering addicts who are positively impacting the community?

If you have a story about the addiction crisis that you think we should do, send us an email at addiction@wfmj.com

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