EATON — U.S. Senator Rob Portman has been touring the state of Ohio, visiting those in recovery, and one recent stop was at Sojourner Recovery Services in Eaton.
Senator Portman stopped by to meet with the women in the residential facility and discuss the heroin and prescription drug epidemic.
Sojourner Recovery Services opened in January 2017 with the mission to provide substance abuse and mental health services. Through comprehensive, evidence based practices and individualized services, they aim to empower people to make positive choices that contribute to healthy and productive lives.
They are a comprehensive alcohol and drug addiction treatment and mental health provider. They provide a spectrum of gender specific services for men, women, and adolescents. They have Residential Addiction Treatment Services available for all.
The house in Eaton is specifically catered to women in recovery.
Scott Gehring is President and CEO of Sojourner Recovery Services. Gehring was present and excited by Senator Portman’s visit to Eaton’s facility. He talked more about Sojourner as a whole and all of their treatment services at time of press. “Sojourner is a treatment program, we provide a comprehensive wraparound service agency, we provide everything from out patient to medical detox to medications to treatment to residential treatment,” he said. “We now have 104 beds of residential treatment. We were thrilled to be able to open this paradise in January to help some of the women here in Preble County.
“As an agency Sojourner is committed to doing everything it takes to turn the tides in this heroin epidemic. We are committed to the clients and we are committed to the community. We are here to do whatever it takes.”
“We are thrilled that Senator Portman took time out of his busy schedule to come see what’s going on here,” he added. “He’s really been a champion for our cause. My hope is that he is able to take what he has learned here back to Washington and help educate some of his coworkers and cohorts, and let them understand that addiction is a disease and it sees no boundaries, sees no faces, and it effects all demographics. My hope is really that he’ll bring some tension to the needs for services and help bring that stigma down and help get more people engaged in treatment.”
Portman has visited several other women’s treatment facilities in the state of Ohio. At his visit to Sojourner Recovery Services in Eaton, he got the opportunity to meet with the 16 women in treatment and hear their stories and what they think of the Sojourner facility.
“We’re in the season of renewal with Easter just passed and this is a time of renewal for these women,” Portman said. “A lot of them have been through treatment programs before, but they found one here that really works for them. A lot of it is the setting, but more of it is the curriculum here. They really take these women through the brain, what happens in the process of a disease like this. Understanding that this is a disease like other diseases, addiction is something that needs to be treated.”
That is something that Sojourner would like to spread to the masses: the understanding that addiction is a disease, not a choice.
“One thing I learned today is that getting women to take charge of their own recovery is working here,” Portman added. “The women gave me a presentation that was about their own recovery and they walked me through the stages of recovery and the different parts of your brain, going from the survival to the emotional to the executive. This is a very intense and scientifically-based treatment program that I think would be great to replicate in other places.
“Sometimes we don’t respect the people with addiction enough to explain in a scientific way what is going on. I think its easier to be successful in treatment and longer term treatment if you understand that this is a brain disease and it has to be treated like other diseases.”
He noted, “The lesson I got from today is that there is hope. There is a way to get over this addiction. Almost all these women are here for one thing: which is opioid addiction, prescription drugs, heroin, fentanyl, and other synthetic heroins. Unfortunately, this crisis has ripped our State up. In the last 10 years here in Ohio, we have seen about a seven-fold increase in overdoses. Increasingly, more people are dying from overdoses because of the stronger drugs.”
This holds true for Preble County itself. Amy Raynes Executive Director of the Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Board was present for Senator Portman’s visit. Following his visit, Raynes spoke regarding the addiction statistics for Preble County. She said that for 2017, the county is on track to double the amount of overdose deaths from last year. She said, “We’re looking at overdose deaths — 16 in 2016, and we’re at nine confirmed for 2017. We have three that they’re pretty sure are going to be confirmed. We’re on the rise for overdose deaths, but also overdoses are on the rise. What we know is that there is just not enough treatment to cover the rising epidemic and the amount of people who need treatment in the county.”
According to Raynes, the county has been working hard to try to counteract the epidemic. She added, “The Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership is a community group of individuals from the Sheriff’s Department, Eaton Police Department, we have the Prosecutors Office, we have the Mental Health and Recovery Board, we have the Recovery and Wellness from our addiction provider in the county, to people in recovery — to the faith-based community. It’s a really amazing group of people and we’re going out and doing the Town Hall meetings to educate, we’re also working on other preventative measures. We’re trying to figure out what can we do and start doing some planning on what we can do to actually impact.”
Senator Portman has taken on the drug addiction epidemic as one of his main causes. He said, “We have never seen anything like this in this country. We have a bigger drug epidemic here than ever before. I was out here to see how you get from addiction to recovery back to your life again.
“Today we talked about a couple things. One was new legislation that passed last year that I authored, that has to do with helping people with addiction and in recovery. It’s called the CARA Legislation, Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. Also the Cures Act we passed last year, that they’re actually applying for a grant here to help them.
“We’re finally getting the federal government more engaged with state and local government and nonprofits like these to try to address this issue,” Portman said. “We also talked about new legislation I’ve introduced, to try to stop some of the new dangerous drugs — fentanyl and other synthetic heroins — from coming into our country.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler