AVON LAKE — Lindsay Bowman’s son doesn’t want to be an addict, but he is one.
At a roundtable attended by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman as well as first responders and recovery service organizations throughout the county Thursday morning at Veterans Memorial Park, Bowman detailed the struggle her family has gone through when it comes to the opioid epidemic.
Bowman said when her son, Logan, was in high school he started using marijuana but eventually stopped smoking. After a collarbone surgery he was prescribed oxycodone, she said, which soon brought on other problems.
“Addicts are smart,” she said. “My son is smart. He started using pills. We couldn’t detect that. We couldn’t smell it. We couldn’t tell. He started working third shift and was working a lot and we just thought he wasn’t adjusting to the new schedule.”
Bowman said on July 16 of last year, just a few months after Logan had graduated from high school, he overdosed after using heroin and it took several doses of naloxone to revive him.
Following the overdose, he took part in Wellington Police Department’s Local Initiative Networking Compassion, or LINC, which allows people struggling with addiction to walk into the police station or fire station to be connected with recovery services.
The LINC program was just one of the programs being discussed at the roundtable, as communities such as Avon Lake and Elyria have implemented similar ones.
“They come in and they ask for help,” Wellington Police Chief Tim Barfield said. “One of the first things we do is volunteers come in and they come in within 15 minutes and they sit with the participant to start the process to get them into recovery, whether that’s detox first, counseling, whatever they need.”
Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely said his department’s program is relatively new, but the impact already is visible.
“In a couple of weeks of work, you can still see the positives,” he said. “In the numbers being reported to us, the overdoses are down and we’re getting people that are going into treatment after we contact them. This is a new program, though, so I don’t have statistics that are really solid yet, but for me it’s already turning into a positive.”
Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Lorain County Executive Director Elaine Georgas said according to statistics from the county coroner, overdoses in the first quarter of 2018 were down from the same period last year.
“This is something that has crossed every boundary and is in every community,” she said. “Today we’re actually looking at the statistics from the coroner and the number of overdose deaths is actually down this year. According to this report, we’re down 22 overdose deaths this quarter; so it looks like the trends might actually be bending a bit, but that doesn’t mean that we’re good to go.”
Portman echoed her sentiments, saying the decrease wasn’t cause for celebration yet.
“I’m delighted to hear that the numbers have gone down a little bit, but we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back just yet because — despite our efforts — this is just like a wave on the lake, it keeps coming until you come up with better strategies to push it back. I’m confident we can make a difference,” he said.
The Cincinnati Republican has introduced numerous bills in Congress to combat the opioid epidemic, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which granted $500,000 to first responders in Lorain County.
“I understand that this county has had a substance abuse problem for a long time,” he said. “I think we all know that, and I think the community has responded in ways that if not unique are special in our state, and one of the issues is ensuring the federal programs work for you. You have been aggressive at pursuing that funding, and it’s helped.”
Avon Lake police Sgt. Reed Reikowski said when officers from his department and clinicians from The LCADA Way come into contact with addicts in the days following an overdose, they are usually met with a warm reception from the individual and their family.
“I’m not aware of any circumstances where one of our guys has been turned away, so that piece of it is working,” he said. “We’ve been welcomed in with open arms. We’ve had good responses from the families and from the people who have overdosed, so the initial response is going very well. What we’re trying to do next is try and make that dent bigger.”
Portman said while many people who overdose are revived with naloxone through emergency services such as police officers and EMS, there are many who have friends and relatives administer naloxone for them after purchasing it over the counter.
He asked Reikowski how departments come into contact with those individuals. Reikowski said that’s one wrinkle in the program still being worked on due to medical privacy concerns.
Barfield also said that since his department began LINC, more than 60 people have taken advantage of it, which also includes an education process that has consisted of several town hall meetings.
“These have an addict and a family member so people can see the other side,” he said. “People are so quick to see the stigma, and as soon as you say someone’s an addict, you hear ‘Let them die’ or ‘That’s not my problem,’ but if you put a face to it, you get a different response.”
One of these faces was Lindsay Bowman’s, who recorded a video for the department to post on its Facebook page to tell her family’s story.
“That night I watched a movie with him and then we watched another movie and another one,” she said. “Eventually he looked at me and said, ‘Mom you can’t stay here with me here.’ And that was my plan was to sit with him and just watch him.”
Following his overdose, Logan Bowman went to a Florida rehabilitation center and has since returned home where his mother said in addition to his new full-time job, he has a curfew and undergoes drug testing every week.
“He’s come back and he’s much more open about how he still wants to get high,” she said. “It’s a daily struggle.”
At the roundtable, Lindsay Bowman revealed her son had not passed his weekly drug test the night before and while it was a difficult decision, she and her husband had to ask him to leave.
“I texted him last night that we all make mistakes and I’m hoping that this was just a mistake and you’ll learn,” she said. “He texted me back and said I love you and I’m really sorry. And that’s why we need to help these people; he doesn’t want to be doing this.”
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