The Dayton region is now known, as much as anything, as the epicenter of the nation’s opioid epidemic. The impact of the epidemic has scarred the community in many ways – its image, a generation of children growing up in addicted households, community resources to fight addiction and crime. On today’s front page, staff writer Katie Wedell kicks off a new project – we’re calling it the Path Forward — in which this newspaper will seek solutions to guide our community through this and other important issues we face. Can we change the community’s image? Do we have the systems in place for a sustained recovery?
We wondered what some local leaders who have been deeply involved in the opioid problem thought about our community’s future. We posed to them the question: “What would a recovered community look like, to you?” Today we share some of their responses.
What do you think? Add your voice to the conversation on our Facebook page, and see what your neighbors have to say as we move forward. — Ron Rollins, Community Impact Editor
1. John Baldasare: Dayton can be the model for recovery
Working as a treatment professional since 1973, I’ve created a unique program I call “The Dayton Model of Recovery” – it says there are five things that are important to know about addiction, and five things one must do in order to access full, long-term recovery.
The fix is found in what I call “The Big Five Values/Commitments of Recovery.” They are:
This is what recovery looks like. There are many variations in how we get there, and many individual options available within this framework. The most important thing is action around getting into a system of care, and insisting on care that adheres to these principles to ensure long-term, focused recovery.
Baldasare is a public speaker on addiction issues and author of “Knowing Affliction and Doing Recovery: How to Overcome Addictions, Mental Illness and PTSD with the Dayton Model.”
2. Jan Lepore-Jentleson: Combatting stigma and loneliness
In a recovered community, people would have hope for the future, and a purpose. There would not be any stigma attached to the disease of addiction or for having been treated for it. And the community would be caring. There would be real job training in areas where we need the trained workforce, and employers willing to hire people with substance-abuse backgrounds and be willing to pay a decent, livable wage. It’s a big deal when people believe they can be a participating member of the community.
In a recovered community, the community provides decent affordable housing that supports long-term recovery and generally meets the needs of families.
In a recovered community, the community provides adequate opportunities for people to gather and build human relationships with each other again. We know loneliness is a growing health risk.
Lepore-Jentleson is executive director of East End Community Services, a non-profit neighborhood center that works with families in east Dayton.
3. Helen Jones-Kelley: We have to stop discriminating against addicts
In a recovered community, the big thing would be that the community understands the needs of people who are dealing with brain illness – really having compassion for one another. We are often intolerant of people who are on a recovery pathway. A recovered community would have compassion.
People who recidivate get terminated from their jobs. People who don’t follow their doctor’s plans to eat right and lose weight, or fight their diabetes, don’t lose their jobs. But people who suffer from the same kind of illness, a brain illness that keeps people from following the plan that would lead to their cure or recovery, are discriminated against.
Jones-Kelley is executive director of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) of Montgomery County.
4. Rev. Tokunbo Adelekan: Community recovery has a spiritual element
A recovered community is one in which there is moral, intellectual and spiritual flourishing, and a place where every member lives a life of dignity and decency and development. Peoples’ minds must be healthy for the community to be healthy. Pain is behind all addictions — and that has to be addressed, and has to begin with a spiritual and moral renewal that begins with a reawakening, if you will, of our souls. In a recovered community, the faith community would build coalitions and relations with various other institutions and sectors of society — justice, schools, families — but with the spiritual aspect as the organizing principle.
Adelekan is pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Dayton.
5. Bill Flaute: Don’t let meth become the new opioid crisis
I think a recovered community would be one that gets rid of the opioid problem, where it isn’t the main thing we’re always worried about — but does not replace it with a meth problem. And unfortunately, that’s what we’re seeing in Riverside.
People who were addicted to opioids got quiet, but meth seems to make people more aggressive, which will cause more problems. We’re seeing the opioid numbers go down, which is what we wanted to see happen – we’re not Narcanning nearly as many people as we were. But now it’s more meth. I hope the community recognizes that and starts deal with it.
Flaute is mayor of the city of Riverside.
6. Randy Chestnut: Helping young people prevent future addiction
A lot of young people get pulled into drug culture because they don’t have hope, they don’t have goals – and so that culture can seem appealing for some as a way to get money and a sense of acceptance.
Young people really need to have a positive network around them – advocates, champions, guides — and the more that happens, the whole drug culture will seem less attractive.
Chestnut is director of mentoring partnerships for the Miami Valley Leadership Foundation, a non-profit that partners with local churches and schools to mentor young people.
In a recovered community, we would have broad understanding that recovery for opioid addiction is much like recovery for alcoholics – you’re always going to be in recovery. People will only stay in recovery if they become fully functional, and to become functional they need to become employed.
Many people in recovery have been out of the workforce for so long that they can’t ease quickly back into it; are there training and scholarship opportunities for them at the community college level?
Bennett is executive director of House of Bread, a community kitchen in west Dayton.
8. Chris Kershner: A recovered community is more productive
From a business perspective, workforce retention and recruitment are a challenge, and a big facet of that is job applicants being able to pass drug tests. So when you think of what a recovered community would look like, one of the positives would be that more job seekers could pass drug tests and be eligible to work.
Another workforce facet is that the opioid epidemic can impact the families you work with – not just the addicted individuals, but also the sober family members they need to support them – and that distracts people from their daily jobs.
Kershner is executive vice president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.
9. Allison Rambo: A recovered community stresses deep relationships
I think a recovered community looks like relationships – it would kind of be going back in time to something we don’t do well any more. Our biggest problem is that people have lost sight of other people. It’s easy to sit back and read about the epidemic and not do anything about it, but behind every number and statistic, there is a real person behind it who has a story. If we authentically communicate with one another, we’ll build empathy and understanding – and from that comes more accountability and support for someone who needs it.
What we’re doing is not rocket science – it’s just loving people where they are.
Rambo is executive director of The Nest Recovery Homes, a women’s addiction recovery center in Wilmington.
10. Christopher Protsman: Cooperation is key to the path forward
It really has to do with cooperation between different entities – law enforcement, the recovery side, hospitals and places like ADAMHS that are dealing with people who have addiction, and also the education piece of how to stop people from becoming addicted. It’s also important for hospitals to reconsider the way they’re giving pain medications to people, and I think we’re seeing a change in how that’s being done now. The schools play a big part in helping kids stay off drugs and also learn how to deal with family members who are dealing with addiction.
Protsman is police chief for the city of Kettering.