Community News March 24, 2017

Adena Hosts Opiate Summit

Adena Health System today hosted an Opiate Summit to engage local, state and federal representatives in achieving next steps to solve the community’s addiction crisis. In attendance were city, county, state and federal leaders (or their representatives); law enforcement; several state agencies; physicians; and area mental health and addiction leaders.

The Summit, led by Adena’s Interim President & CEO Dr. John Fortney, and Primary Care Physician, Dr. John Gabis, who also serves as Ross County Coroner and Co-chair of the Heroin Partnership Project, provided education about where Ross County has been in its opiate addiction battle, the community’s change efforts so far, and what is needed to take the next steps. 

“We’ve done a lot of work and now we are stuck,” said Dr. Gabis. “We have people working hard to save lives, but we have a glaring gap and that’s treatment. Our greatest chance to impact the life of the addict is when that person is at the bottom. We need to have treatment options for them that are immediately available.”

The barrier created by the lack of area detox and treatment programs comes as the result of the need for funding and collaboration with experienced partners. Dr. Gabis and Paint Valley Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board (ADAMH) Interim Executive Director Penny Dehner explained the limitations of current funding sources, including the current uncertainty of available Medicaid funding, which has put the brakes on the possible entry of experienced and reputable treatment providers into the local marketplace.

“Right now, we’re not able to reach the people who need the treatment,” Dehner said. 

In addition to the lack of treatment options, the region is having extreme difficulty in attracting psychiatrists to the area. Currently, ADAMH is using telemedicine to deliver psychiatric services to its patients. Adena has just one full-time psychiatrist practicing right now, and is searching to fill at least two full-time positions. 

“We’re collaborating and we’re organized. We need your help to take the next steps,” Dr. Gabis urged the representatives and government leaders. “We need you to advocate for us, and to help give us the boost we need. We want to show the state and nation that we are the region that solved this problem, and this is how it’s done.”