Commissioners recognize responders in opioid fight

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Belmont County Commissioners J.P. Dutton, left, Josh Meyer and Jerry Echemann, right, join Patricia Allen, associate director of the Mental Health and Recovery board, in recognizing workers and responders who continue to battle the opioid epidemic. Additional training is offered to help people in distress.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The mental health needs of area residents and the ongoing fight against opioid overdoses can feel like a “never-ending battle,” and local responders are being recognized.

The Belmont County Board of Commissioners heard from Patricia Allen, associate director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board for Belmont, Harrison and Monroe Counties, and recognized community members who are working on the “front lines” in the fight against Ohio’s opioid epidemic Wednesday.

She said demand for services has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Police, fire, EMT, Children’s Services, emergency room personnel — to express our appreciation for the work they are doing, and especially during COVID. They have a very challenging job, and COVID is that added layer to it. We want them to know we appreciate their work and their part in combating this epidemic,” Allen said.

“It is a major ongoing problem,” Commissioner Josh Meyer said.

Allen said her office is also offering free virtual suicide prevention training called Question, Persuade, Refer.

“Anyone who’s a frontline worker can sign up. They can go to our website. It’s about an hour and a half long and it teaches some skills to be able to talk with them and work with someone who may be feeling suicidal, expressing suicidal ideation in order to help assess them and refer them to treatment providers,” she said.

Allen said many have already called or signed up. She said assistance for a wide variety of issues is available.

There has been an increase in overdoses both statewide and in Belmont County.

People were particularly hard-hit during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, mandates and lockdowns during 2020, and matters have not improved.

“Six months into the year (of 2021) in Belmont County, we had surpassed numbers from the previous year. Obviously people are still struggling with mental health issues, the isolation, the fear, just not having that sense of connection and community that they previously had. … Our senior centers had recently opened up, they’re starting to close again. That’s a serious concern. Our students are going back to school with masks again.

“We want to let people know there are services available in our community. There’s a lot of help and support,” she said, adding this includes people battling addiction, mental health issues and family members in need of support.

She said the strain of not being able to attend in-person meetings is also making an impact.

“There are virtual options, but it’s not the same as having that face-to-face connection and interaction,” she said.

Allen said there are six employees in her agency, including four full-time counselors and social workers and two part-timers.

The website is bhmboard.org. The QPR training will be held 10-11:30 a.m. Sept. 20; 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sept. 21; and 3-4:30 p.m. Sept. 24. The phone number is 740-695-9998.

In other matters, the commissioners accepted two bids to provide three fixed cascade self-contained breathing apparatus filling stations.The stations will replace the current 26-year-old ones at the Bellaire, Bethesda and Cumberland Trail fire stations. Cumberland Trail Fire Chief Tim Hall thanked the commissioners.


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