LANCASTER— U.S. Representative Steve Stivers met with members of law enforcement, health care professionals and addiction services from several area counties including Pickaway County for an Opiate and Addiction Roundtable, held in Lancaster, to discuss what’s happening in the local communities.
Stivers presented those in attendance with a list of legislation that has been enacted on the subject of opioids and addiction. He heard from more than 70 people Wednesday.
“I wanted you to know up front that what we’ve already done here has made a difference,” Stivers said. “We’ve gotten things signed into law as a result of the roundtables we’ve done. I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas.”
Stivers touched on four areas during the roundtable — local crime and community impacts, treatment and rehabilitation, housing and employment and prevention initiatives. From the discussion, he said he had about 17 different takeaways that he can start working on in Congress.
“I never know on the day we do it which one is going to be the one we’re going to get done because we always get the big funnel and get with my colleagues to see what they support,” he said. “There are several good ideas that we can actually get done.”
Stivers said among his takeaways were increased funding in key areas such as prevention, incentives for recovery housing, removing pain as a vital sign in health care and making changes to asset forfeiture rules.
“The things I wrote down are things I can make actionable and get done in a funding bill, as a standalone bill, or as part of some addiction package,” he said. “There are things we might be able to do. You never know which ones will get traction or how quickly you can get it moving. There are some great ideas that came out of today.”
Stivers said the roundtables, with the roundtable Wednesday being the fifth on the topic, are helpful in order to hear what’s happening at the local level.
“I am jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, and it’s great to meet with the people who are involved in law enforcement, the judicial system, healthcare and treatment, prevention and housing for people in long term recovery and trying to figure out what are the gaps and how we actually can make it better and attack the addiction problem in our county,” Stivers said. “There were some really smart people that were here that you would have to pay consulting fees. The value for me is we have 75 amazing minds all in one place at one time, and I get to learn from all their expertise and experience. That’s invaluable to me.”
Stivers said there were a lot of things discussed during the roundtable that he didn’t know about.
“It’s always great to get the folks that practice everyday in this area on combating addiction and getting people in recovery and addiction,” he said. “I learned a lot of things today, and these actionable things are things I think I can get help get done.”
Molly Hedges, executive board member at the Pickaway Addiction Action Coalition (PAAC), said it was great that Stivers put on the event.
“The representation of the different agencies, law enforcement and government was phenomenal,” she said. “People are concerned. We’ve got to get a handle on this. I was very impressed with Representative Stivers’ takeaways from the forum. He is truly invested in getting us to a better place. We have to get our communities and counties healthier, and he’s looking at the whole picture.”
Layne Goode, communications program associate at Berger Health Foundation, said it was nice to see all of the different stakeholders at the table.
“I was really impressed that we had the law enforcement side and the healthcare side. I was worried it would be all one or the other,” Goode said. “You can’t do it with just one side. Law enforcement can’t do it without the health side, and the health side can’t do it without law enforcement.”
Hedges said everyone appreciated the various viewpoints, despite some disagreements on certain topics.
“This is a non-partisan issue. It affects all of us,” Hedges said. “We have a long way to go, but we’re making in-roads. The cooperation between all of the agencies is phenomenal. In Pickaway County, we’re fortunate that we have that and we’re all on the same page.”