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Black leaders address opioid crisis, drug abuse stigma in central Ohio

By Jonathan Jackson,


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Black community leaders are drawing attention to the growing opioid crisis in Franklin County.

Through an event called “Opioid Community Conversation,” dozens of residents and leaders joined together for a meeting around opioid awareness here in Columbus.

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“We want to promote community advocacy, with people who come here tonight,” said Dana Lavender, program manager with the African American Male Wellness Agency.

The event was hosted by the African American Male Wellness Agency and touched on several topics including the rising number of opioid overdose deaths in Ohio, especially among the Black community.

“With opiates it’s a process, it’s a road to recovery,” said Christina Goins, a community health manager with CompDrug.

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Goins works with CompDrug, an opioid treatment program, and said one of the issues she finds most apparent is the lack of awareness around opioid addiction in the Black community.

“Our rates and our numbers continue to rise, and so it’s important to have these conversations so people are aware, they’re educated,” said Goins.

Without information and education, local emergency services say more harm is done.

“It destroys families,” said Lt. Isaac Toliver, with the Columbus Division of Fire.

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Toliver supervises the Rapid Response Emergency Addiction and Crisis Teams (RREACT), which responds to non-fatal overdoses in the community, as well as bringing individuals to treatment.

He said it’s through conversations like this that opioid overdoses can be prevented.

“It’s huge, I mean education is key, and then you see the increase in the African American community. So, I know for us over the last year, being out in the community doing different walks, and being involved like this has really opened the doors for us,” said Toliver.

On Monday, the African American Male Wellness Agency plans to hold a virtual meeting, where they’ll be providing Narcan training.

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