Opioid town hall in Ohio: Stopping the growth of the addiction crisis

Sinclair presents the fourth town hall addressing the opioid crisis broadcast live from Columbus, Ohio. (Screen shot via SBG)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (SBG) - Sinclair Broadcast Group and WSYX teamed up to host the fourth installment in a series of town halls to help raise awareness of the country's opioid epidemic.

Eric Bolling moderated the event at Cedarville University as part of the "Our Voice, Our Future" series.

The goal of the discussion was to help raise awareness, as well as explore possible solutions and take a closer look at those who bear responsibility for the epidemic.

Bolling and his wife Adrienne have been outspoken activists in the battle against opioid addiction following the loss of their 19-year old son to an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2017.

According to a recent study by the National Safety Council, Americans are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than in a motor vehicle accident.

Bolling was joined by several guests including Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who signed two executive orders to combat the opioid epidemic after being sworn into office.

The first was the creation of Recovery Ohio, an initiative which helps coordinate substance abuse and mental health prevention, treatment and recovery support services at the local, state and federal levels.

DeWine also created a position within the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to focus on educating children in kindergarten through twelfth grade about drug abuse prevention.

Pastor Greg Delaney was named by DeWine as an Outreach Coordinator for Recovery Ohio.

A former addict, Delaney shared his story about what helped him overcome his addiction and how he uses his experiences to help others in need.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 70,237 drug overdose deaths occurred across the United States in 2017, with 47,600 involving the use of opioids.

Ohio trailed only West Virginia for the highest rates of deaths due to drug overdoses, with just over 46 per 100,000 residents.

The state also was one of several that saw a significant increase in drug overdose death rates from 2016 to 2017.

The opioid epidemic hit close to home for former Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor.

A few years ago, she announced both of her sons were dealing with opioid addiction.

Taylor described failed drug rehab programs, overdoses at her home and more in her family’s ongoing battle with addiction.

Despite the rising numbers, Ohio's 2017 Drug Overdose Report revealed overdose deaths in 2017 saw a decrease of almost 28 percent since 2011, marking an eight-year low.

Prescription opioid-related overdose deaths accounted for 523 of Ohio’s total 4,854 unintentional overdose deaths in 2017, compared to 564 of 4,050 total deaths in 2016.

The report also found a 23 percent drop in accidental drug overdose deaths during the last six months of 2017. However, since 2005, that number has seen an increase of 386 percent.

Dr. Marc Sweeney, Dean of the School of Pharmacy at Cedarville University discussed the many factors that can be associated with opioid addiction.

Sinclair kicked off the "Our Voice, Our Future" series two months ago at Liberty University.

First lady Melania Trump headlined the event and spoke to students and families about opioid abuse, the third pillar of her "Be Best" initiative.

Sinclair Broadcast Group remains committed to fighting the opioid crisis, and "Our Voice, Our Future" seeks to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of addiction while exploring solutions to the drug crisis and holding accountable those who bear responsibility.

Wednesday's town hall was streamed live on all of Sinclair's websites and it will re-air on multiple Sinclair stations.

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