Countering the effects of substance abuse

By Mike Barhorst - Contributing columnist

Substance abuse was identified as one of Shelby County’s most serious health issues through a recent Community Health Needs Assessment is substance abuse. According to the report issued just this year, alcohol-impaired driving deaths are 25 percent higher in Shelby County than elsewhere in Ohio. The report also noted that drug poisoning deaths are increasing, as is the administration of Naloxone, the drug administered to reverse the effects of opioids such as heroin.

A similar assessment undertaken in 2013 reported that about 20 percent of adults binge drink in Shelby County, a rate that outpaces both Ohio and the country as a whole. Binge drinking is drinking an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time — generally four drinks for women and five for men in a period of two hours or less.

According to the 2013 study, the percentage of 8th, 9th, and 10th graders who admitted to drinking alcohol within the last 30 days was reported to be 23.9 percent. The Surgeon General reports that annually, about 5,000 people under age 21 die from alcohol-related injuries involving underage drinking. Approximately 1,900 (38 percent) of the 5,000 deaths involve motor vehicle crashes; 1,600 (32 percent) are the result of homicides; and, 300 (6 percent) are the result of suicide.

In the Surgeon General’s Call to Action, underage drinking was reported to play “a significant role in risky sexual behavior, including unwanted, unintended, and unprotected sexual activity, and sex with multiple partners. Such behavior increases the risk for unplanned pregnancy and for contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”

The report also noted a number of other factors involved with underage drinking, including increasing the risk of physical and sexual assault, contributing to academic failure, being associated with illicit drug use, tobacco use, and a host of physical consequences ranging from hangovers to death from alcohol poisoning. The report also notes that underage alcohol consumption can cause alterations in the structure and function of the developing brain, which continues to mature into the mid-to late twenties, and may have consequences reaching far beyond adolescence.

As the area’s primary healthcare provider and stakeholder in the Community Health Needs Assessment, Wilson Health will be hosting an upcoming community event where attendees will hear first-hand how a high profile athlete lost everything as a result of substance abuse. The timing of the event was intentional, and designed to impact students and their parents at the beginning of the academic year.

On August 25, Chris Herren will be welcomed into the community for a program that will held in the Schlater Family Gymnasium at Lehman Catholic High School (2400 Saint Marys Ave.). The program, free and open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The location was selected because it is the largest such venue in the county, easily accessible and perhaps most important given the heat and humidity we have experienced this year, air conditioned.

Scheduled to speak is Chris Herren, a basketball legend from Fall River, MA. Growing up, Chris dreamed of one day playing for his hometown team, the Boston Celtics. A high school All-American, Herren broke scoring records, was recruited by top colleges, featured in Sports Illustrated and became the focus of an acclaimed book entitled “Fall River Dreams.”

Herren realized his lifelong dream of playing in the National Basketball Association when he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 1999. He was traded to the Boston Celtics after his rookie season, and then lost everything due to substance abuse.

Alcohol and drug free since 2008, Herren has refocused his life to put his sobriety and family above all else. He shares his harrowing story of abuse and recovery in his memoir, “Basketball Junkie,” as well as in numerous interviews throughout the Emmy nominated ESPN Films documentary, “Unguarded,” of which he is the subject.

This community event is being co-sponsored by Wilson Health, Shelby County United Way, City of Sidney Police Department, Orthopedic Associates of Southwest Ohio, P.T. Services Rehabilitation, Inc., Reality 2000 Group and Shelby County Family and Children First Council/Help Me Grow. I commend the sponsors for their recognition of the growing problem of substance abuse in the community, the impact that abuse has on families and the community and their willingness to step forward to help take steps to counter substance abuse.

I should point out that there is no community in the country that is immune from the effects of substance abuse. Substance abuse and crimes related to substance abuse affect everyone in the community, the state and the nation.

For those battling substance abuse, Shelby County offers several counseling and recovery options. The Shelby County Counseling Center, Catholic Social Services, Samaritan Works and Shelby County Recovery are just a few of the available non-profit programs offering assistance in the community. For family and friends of those dealing with substance abuse, participating in a Nar-Anon Family Group may be of assistance, and that program is also available locally.

I would like to encourage local students, their families and those concerned about substance abuse to attend the August 25 event. I know that you will find the presentation to be “sobering,” and one that could set the stage for dialogue within families, schools and churches about the evils of substance abuse.

By Mike Barhorst

Contributing columnist

The writer is mayor of Sidney.

The writer is mayor of Sidney.