Substance abuse symposium to be held at Salem Community Center

SALEM — Anybody looking to get educated on what is available to fight drug addiction and how the community can help is being urged to attend an opioid/substance abuse symposium planned from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Salem Community Center.

The Do No Harm event co-sponsored by the Salem Police Department and Ohio CAN Change Addiction Now Columbiana County will feature a number of speakers from the criminal justice system, mental health and recovery agencies, the medical community, Ohio CAN and people in recovery. The targeted audience includes community members, families, educators, local leaders, area residents in recovery and those who are still struggling –pretty much anybody and everybody.

“This is for the community so they can come in there and get any information they want,” Ohio CAN President Brenda Hamilton of Salem said.

Hamilton explained that she kept hearing that people didn’t know where to turn or where they could get help and people wanted to know what they could do as a community. They wanted information, so she spoke with Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott and they teamed up for the event.

“We want to get as much information out there about the heroin epidemic as we can,” Panezott said. “We can’t arrest our way out of this.”

He explained that doesn’t mean they take a softer approach on the issue. Their job as a department is to arrest the offenders, especially the traffickers or dealers. They have taken a very proactive approach to that, with one officer assigned full-time to the county Drug Task Force and another assigned full-time to the Drug Enforcement Administration. They started using K-9 Simon in August and he has sniffed out a lot of drugs in that short time. Officers are out there pounding the streets making drug arrests and then what?

“We see the same people over and over again,” Panezott said, whether it is for drug possession or theft to support their habits.

The police department is working with other departments to get ideas on how to get people into treatment. He said the idea of a drug court by county Municipal Court Judge Chris Amato is an awesome idea. Salem officers are now carrying the overdose reversal drug Naloxone (Narcan) and have been trained in how to use it. City firefighters have already been carrying it and have successfully revived some people found unresponsive.

That’s all good, but Panezott said they need to take it a step further. They need to find a solution for what they can do.

Hamilton said there is a lot of misinformation on social media and so many people hide behind their keyboards when they need to get out in the community and help with change.

“If you don’t reach out to help those suffering, you’re not helping anybody get better. Let beautification start there,” she said.

She also addressed people making comments about the use of Narcan, saying “every life is worth saving.” The community needs to know that every member of a family is affected when one member is addicted to drugs. Children can be affected.

Speakers for the evening include Hamilton, Panezott, Amato, Salem Mayor John Berlin, Columbiana County Drug Task Force Director Lt. Brian McLaughlin of the Sheriff’s Office, addiction specialist Dr. Jeanette Moleski, medic Rick Valesko, county Mental Health & Recovery Services Board Executive Director Kathie Chaffee, county Department of Job and Family Services Director Eileen Dray-Bardon, Family Recovery Center Executive Director Eloise Traina, Ohio CAN State Director Cindy Koumoutzis, Tom Fritz of Celebrate Recovery, and people in recovery, Jason Burns and Cassy Scott.

Besides the speakers, there will be educational tables set up where people can get information. Groups represented include Ohio CAN, ADAPT, Mental Health & Recovery Services Board, Family Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, NAMI, Community Action Agency Behavioral Health & Dental Center, CASH (Coordinated Action for School Health), Crisis Intervention & Recovery, Counseling Center and Revitalize Recovery.

There will be information on where to get Narcan kits at no cost and Moleski will talk about options people have with Vivitrol, a drug to help block opioid dependence.

“The struggling can walk away with information and hope,” Hamilton said.