Local Community Fights Opiate Epidemic

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ALLIANCE, Ohio --

Abuse of prescription drugs is a growing epidemic in Northeast Ohio and across the country, especially among teenagers. Thursday night, a local community fought back.

Dozens of people attended a meeting at the Alliance Friends Church about the rising epidemic of prescription drug and opiate abuse in Stark County.  It was sponsored by the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and Quest Recovery and Prevention Services.

The meeting began by playing a video celebrating the life of 21-year-old Dustin Battdorff, of Stark County's Jackson Township.

"This was a young man who was involved in sports, who got good grades, who had a supportive family, who, you know, really had everything going for him," said Jackie Pollard, director of Clinical Services for the board.

September 25 of last year, Dustin died from a heroin overdose--a day before he was scheduled to check into rehab.

"I really think that the parents were really courageous in allowing us to use it. When I talked with them, they said that we could use it any way that it would be helpful to the community," said Pollard.

"We're seeing a lot of people seeking treatment, and a lot of people overdosing from abuse and dependency of opiate drugs, and when they can't access those prescription drugs, then they go to heroin," said Keith Hochadel, President and CEO of Quest Recovery and Prevention Services.

Meeting organizers discussed treatment options, and why physical and psychological addiction makes it hard for someone to stop using the drugs.

"They know that just one pill will make them feel a little bit better, and what happens is, they seek out that one and they're back in that cycle of addiction again," Hochadel said.

"Like any drug addict, they will do what they need to do to satisfy their habit. Often times, that means more crime in other areas: theft and things of that nature," said Andrew Turowski, president of the Stark County Police Chief’s Association.

"I'm a clinical counselor, and I'm just coming to gain some more knowledge about what's going on in the community," said Alliance resident Kaolene Metzger.

Battdorf began by taking a friend's pain pill, then progressed to heroin. Organizers say his story proves that this can affect any child, anywhere.

"It really is impacting all of our youth in Ohio, and really, kind of across the country," said Pollard.

In 2001, there were seven accidental overdoses from prescription medicine in Stark County.  In 2009, that number tripled to 21, and officials say as each year passes, the numbers continue to rise.

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