GALLIA COUNTY — Though the COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant challenges, Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery (CPR) have been hard at work combating them to provide local services.
“The observation has been that what many here are doing is very difficult to do through distance means,” Thom Mollohan, who led the meeting, said. “There’s a feeling that the effectiveness is broken down a bit by having to do things virtually…but I don’t know of a silver bullet to fix that problem…Don’t give up, because it’s still important, maybe a harder job than ever, but keep it up.”
Gallia CPR is a coalition of different individuals and groups in the county that addresses issues like drug prevention, recovery, mental illness and suicide prevention. They meet once a month to discuss ways to engage the community on these topics. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was held online over Zoom, a video-sharing platform.
Some prevention measures CPR is taking include expanding the Gallia Youth Coalition, a teen-led group that promotes healthy drug-free lifestyles.
“They’re moving forward with planned activities as much as they can,” Mollohan said. “They’re excited about the continued teen interest and level of activity that they’ve seen so far over the summer.”
CPR is also promoting an anti-vaping program administered through CVS called Catch My Breath. CPR and Health Recovery Services are partnering with the Gallia County Health Department to sponsor the program.
Though there is a great deal of uncertainty concerning the state of the coming school year, Reggie Roberts, who works with Health Recovery Services, is confident that youth-aimed prevention efforts will continue.
“We do have a plan for the school year,” Roberts said. “All our services have been adapted to an online platform” like Zoom. Roberts added that Health Recovery Services will continue to be available in person when possible.
The coalition is also sponsoring a drug take back event.
“This week we are doing a drug take back event with Deterra bags, which essentially have been distributed…all around Meigs and Gallia Counties,” Dana Wilkerson, who works for Holzer, said. “We’re really excited to see that come to life this week.”
Individuals interested can pick up a free Deterra bag at a number of locations across Gallia and Meigs County, empty medicine in the bag, add water, and then seal and shake the bag. This neutralizes the medication and allows for safe disposal. Deterra bags can be picked up in Rio Grande at Rio Family Healthcare; in Gallipolis at Bossard Memorial Library, Gallia County Health Department, Health Recovery Services, Holzer Family Pharmacy, Piggly Wiggly on 2nd Avenue, Piggly Wiggly in Sping Valley, and Zack and Scotty’s; in Pomeroy at Health Recovery Services and the Meigs County Health Department; in Middleport at Meigs County Job and Family Services; in Coolville at Friends and Neighbors, and in Chester at Hearts and Hands Thrift Store.
“We know that there is a strong correlation between the abuse of prescription medication and drug abuse overall,” Mollohan said. “It’s an important strategy that they’ve taken the lead in.”
CPR also discussed the needle exchange and Naloxone kit program. Needle exchanges can prevent the spread of preventable intravenous diseases. Naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose, can be administered with a kit.
“We have a pretty steady four to seven people coming in new that are finding out about the program and understanding that it’s not as scary as everyone thinks it is,” Joni Ferrell, who works at the Gallia County Health Department, said. “We are reaching a little more each week.”
The health department has seen an increase in the numbers of people taking Naloxone kits. Fentanyl, an illicit opiate that has grown in usage in the area, is less reactive to naloxone than heroin and other opiates. It may require multiple doses of naloxone to reverse a fentanyl overdose. The Gallia County Health Department does not put a limit on how many naloxone kits an individual can receive.
Naloxone kits have been accused of perpetuating drug abuse, but Mollohan noted that they are “an attempt to connect people with resources to not only save their lives in the short-term,” but also a way to connect individuals with long-term rehabilitative resources to achieve sobriety.
Laura Jenkins also discussed early intervention services, which aid children born with disabilities. Any child born addicted to drugs automatically qualifies for early intervention services, Jenkins said.
CPR also does suicide prevention work. This month, future endeavors on this issue were discussed. September is Suicide Awareness Month, and the group is exploring options for engaging with the community despite the pandemic on the issue, such as getting a guest speaker, putting up a billboard, and sponsoring a coloring contest in local schools.
Loss teams were also discussed at the meeting. Loss teams are groups of at least two people or more who can engage and talk with someone who has immediately lost a family member or friend to suicide. At least one member of a loss team must be a suicide loss survivor who has lost a close relative or friend to suicide over two years ago. Because of this, it has been “difficult to establish a loss team,” Crystal Rankin, who works for Hopewell Health Services and works in suicide prevention, said. Still, some progress has been made. The group also discussed starting a support group for family survivors of suicide.
CPR is also planning a multi-county suicide prevention conference for Sept. 30, Roberts announced. The conference will feature speakers and workshops.
Lastly, anti-human trafficking efforts were discussed. Dr. Christi Scott Bartman, who does research on human trafficking in Appalachia, announced that an Appalachian anti-human trafficking coalition called Eyes Up Appalachia has been started.
“It is going to be coordinating throughout Appalachian Ohio,” Bartman said. “We started with Gallia County.”
Bartman hopes Eyes Up Appalachia will have a representative in Gallia CPR or will create another coalition to address trafficking.
“Though the time is challenging, a lot of progress is being made” across depression, suicide, and addiction issues, Mollohan said.
CPR serves Gallia County and frequently collaborates with other local coalitions to provide prevention and recovery services in the area.
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.