"Take Charge Ohio" campaign kicks off in Mahoning County - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

"Take Charge Ohio" campaign kicks off in Mahoning County

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

A new statewide campaign has been launched in three communities, including right here in Mahoning County.

The "Take Charge Ohio" Public Awareness Campaign is designed to help address prescription opioid abuse.

Ohio feels it's making progress on that front because in 2016 the state had the fewest prescription opioid overdose deaths in seven years.

The goal of this statewide campaign is to help opioid prescribers educate their patients and the public about the dangers of misusing prescription medication, and ultimately find safer ways to manage their pain.

Some of those alternative pain management suggestions include a combination of Acetaminophen or Tylenol; Ibuprofen or Advil; ice or heat; chiropractic manipulation; physical therapy or even counseling.

One startling statistic is that more than 80% of the time opioids prescribed by a doctor after a surgery or because of an injury has become a gateway drug to something worse.

Dr. Mark Hurst, Medical Director with the Ohio Department of Mental Health in Columbus, said, "Those prescriptions drugs can lead to the Fentanyl, the heroin and the other things that are more addictive and more lethal."

So doctors and dentists are hoping to find new ways to help their patients tolerate the pain, and educate them about what can happen when prescription painkillers are abused.

"There's not one thing that's going to turn this around.  But this is an important tool in decreasing the prescribing and assuring we're providing good pain treatment and not putting patients or others at risk by having excessive opioid exposure to the patient or excessive opioids that are sitting around for potential misuse and abuse," said Dr. Hurst.

Those on the front lines at Mercy Health, who dress in full hazmat gear when overdose victims are just dropped off in the lobby, believe this campaign could have a significant impact to a public health crisis that has taken hold nationwide.

Donald Koenig, Jr., JD, Chief Operating Officer for Mercy Health, said, "When you look at the fatality numbers in the United States in 2016 it was 60,000 drug overdose deaths.  In one year more people died than 10 years of the Vietnam War."

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