“NOT FAR FROM ME: Stories of Opioids and Ohio” features first-person accounts from Ohioans, including some from Ohio Northern University. (Photo provided)

By SARA ARTHURS

Staff Writer

A new book on the opioid crisis featuring first-person accounts from Ohioans includes some voices from Ohio Northern University.

“Not Far from Me: Stories of Opioids and Ohio” was published by the Ohio State University Press. The book is composed entirely of first-person accounts from Ohioans.

According to the book’s website, “Themes of pain and healing, despair and hope are woven throughout accounts of families who have lost loved ones to addiction, stories of survival, and experiences of working on the front lines in communities.” It includes a foreword by former Gov. Ted Strickland.

ONU professor of sociology Keith Durkin authored a chapter to offer his insights from the perspective of a social sciences researcher. Also, ONU Raabe College of Pharmacy Dean Steven Martin, HealthWise Pharmacy Manager Katie Westgerdes and former staff member Amy Fanous collaborated for a chapter about health care outreach challenges and efforts in a rural setting.

The Ohio Northern contributors focused on how the epidemic has impacted rural areas.

Durkin said Berkeley Franz, the book’s co-editor, and Daniel Skinner reached out to him because they were looking for more perspectives from the northwestern part of Ohio.

In writing the piece, Durkin set out to educate people on the connection between mental health issues and opioid abuse. We as a society cannot address the opioid problem “unless we address these underlying causes,” he said. Sending someone to treatment but not dealing with their anxiety or depression means “they’re going to turn around and self-medicate,” he said.

Durkin, along with ONU assistant professor of criminal justice Tristin Kilgallon and Wade Melton, director of programs for the Hardin County Common Pleas Court, juvenile division, conducted research last year on youths and adults going through the Hardin County court system. They found that three-quarters of adults and all of the youths in their study reported symptoms of at least one mental health problem. Trauma was also a big factor.

Durkin said one of the challenges in working on his piece for the book was putting it in more “literary” terms, rather than the more technical jargon he uses when writing for other academics.

He said working on the project made him think even more about the people affected, the “human toll.” He said that toll continues, as many of those who are now children have experienced trauma related to their parents’ drug use. Some have had parents incarcerated, and Durkin knows of a young girl who had to use naloxone, the medication that reverses an overdose, on her mother.

This is worrying, as trauma in childhood or adolescence can lead to substance abuse later on. So, Durkin is “profoundly concerned” about what the future holds. He said we as a society must “tackle this head on.”

Durkin said one positive thing is that while before “we were in collective denial, as a society,” today we are talking about these issues more openly and honestly.

“Not Far from Me: Stories of Opioids and Ohio” has received praise from individuals such as Ohio’s U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, as well as nationally recognized author Sam Quinones, who wrote “Dreamland,” a book with a similar focus. Quinones spoke at ONU in October 2018, as part of the university focusing on the impact of opioid abuse during the 2018-2019 academic year, “as the university looks to strengthen the quality of life for area residents.” Several staff and faculty members are involved in efforts to work alongside other community leaders in responding to the opioid epidemic in the Hardin County region.

Arthurs: 419-427-8494 Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs

Twitter: @swarthurs

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