Where is the Valley in the opioid fight? - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Where is the Valley in the opioid fight?

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WARREN, Ohio -

Where are we in the opioid fight? It's a drug war that has cost some everything; their homes, their children, and, in many cases, their lives.

Now with a decrease in the number of overdose-related deaths in Mahoning County, and a decrease in overdoses in Trumbull County, those on the front lines believe there could be light on the horizon.

The images of those who have overdosed, often repeatedly, is a tragic reminder of how this opioid epidemic has destroyed lives.  But there are others who have battled the addiction and lived to tell their story.

One recovering addict told us back in 2013 that she did all the things she thought she would never do, including heroin, putting a needle in her arm and stealing.  She said the addiction had taken over.

A Warren man who rallied with others on Courthouse Square said the community needed to have compassion because, "We do recover."

Nicole Walmsley, a recovering addict, a mother, and now a police liaison who has helped create numerous recovery programs had this to say, "Five years ago nobody could be proud of me.  Nobody had anything nice to say.  So to have my own child be proud of me, there aren't words to explain that feeling."

At one point Trumbull County was among the communities leading the death toll in Ohio.

Now April Caraway, Executive Director for the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, says things are improving. "We've had less overdoses from opiates this year than last.  We're at 60 for the month of May.  And that's quite a bit lower than May of last year."

In Mahoning County, there have been about 37 "confirmed" overdose deaths so far this year.  That's down from 56 overdoses from this same date in 2017.   A 33% decrease.

Brenda Heidinger, Associate Director for the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, says, "One death is too many.  But at least we're headed in the right direction."

So what do those on the front lines of the opioid fight attribute the change to?

"I think there's a lot of reasons why.  So much media coverage that has helped people understand the opioid epidemic, doctors prescribing less pain meds, the police officers doing the arrests.  We have so much state and local involvement with initiatives to prevent people from starting to begin with," Caraway said.

Everyone and everything working together over the past few years to battle the opioid epidemic head-on.  But there's also more treatment beds available now than when the crisis began.  There were only 16 in each county early on.

Caraway says, "In Trumbull County, we have 32 detox beds available now through First Step Recovery and FSR Parkman.  And three years ago, four years ago, we didn't have any.  We had to buy beds from other counties."

According to Heidinger, "Right now we have about 36 beds open in Mahoning County, 36 to 48 beds depending on the count in a given day."

Other programs that appear to be working in the opioid fight, having Narcan available to families and first responders; Mahoning County's First Response Team; and law enforcement and prosecutors efforts to criminally charge those they can identify who provide heroin, fentanyl or other deadly drugs to anyone who dies from an overdose.

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