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State Opioid Response Grant Funding Helping Portage Residents

New services to help people struggling with opioid addiction were introduced in Portage County through funding the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County received from the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services’ State Opioid Response (SOR) Grant in 2019. The grant funded the opening of the Opioid Recovery Clinic at Townhall II and introduced peer support specialists to the county’s continuum of care.

The clinic provides evaluation and treatment for substance use disorder on an outpatient basis and opioid treatment utilizing approved medications. The clinic has provided an affordable place in Portage County for those who previously had to travel for treatment. Over 100 people have received medication-assisted treatment (MAT) at the clinic since its opening.

Dr. Dean DePerro is the medical director and is also the Portage County Coroner. He has been grateful for the experience to treat people and keep them alive, allowing them to re-engage with their families and reclaim their lives. “Studies have shown conclusively that MAT is the best way to treat somebody who’s overdosed,” he said.

Clients at the clinic also are connected to a peer support specialist -- a person with “lived experience” who has been trained to support others who are struggling with mental health and addiction issues.

Clinical Director Rob Young said peer specialists have enhanced Townhall II’s treatment team. “By sharing their journey in recovery, Certified Peer Recovery Supporters play a vital role in helping clients to obtain needed substance use disorder services and to remain involved in services,” he explained. “They are also skilled at identifying client needs and appropriate resources that can improve a client’s quality of life and their treatment outcomes.”

A function of the peer supporter for clients at the Opioid Recovery Clinic is to keep the client engaged between visits and to be a “middleman” helping to bridge the gaps.

Joe Follen is one of Townhall II’s peer support specialists and also works as a Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant. He enjoys his work as a peer supporter where he can be “hands-on and walk side by side with a person to make the transition easier in their recovery journey.”

“My role as a peer supporter allows me to connect with anyone in the community who is struggling,” Follen explains. “For example, I got word that someone I knew was out of jail, and I was able to contact them just to say, ‘Hey – I’m checking in on you. Anytime I can help, I’m here.’ Sometimes people don’t know where to turn or what to do, but they may feel comfortable contacting me.”

Stefani Whitmire, another peer support specialist, recalls one of the people she worked with this past year.

“I started working with a woman had relapsed after many years in recovery. She lost custody of her child, her job, and her home,” recounted Whitmire. “The shame she felt prevented her from reaching out to people or attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.”

During the past last six months, Whitmire attended a recovery meeting with her each week so she wouldn’t feel alone in the process. Whitmer also advocated for her in court, worked with her to establish housing, and supported her as she regained custody of her child.

“She has been an Opioid Recovery Clinic client throughout her outpatient treatment here at Townhall II. Her progress has been remarkable, and she has benefited immensely from SOR funded services!” Whitmire concluded.

Although the SOR 1 grant funding has concluded, the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County recently announced they received an additional $800,000 as part of the SOR 2 funding issued by the Ohio Department of Mental Health Services.

“This funding will allow us to continue and enhance these much-needed treatment services and supports as well as add some new projects such as intensive home-based treatment, family-centered groups, early diversion for at risk adolescents, and tobacco cessation,” stated John Garrity, PhD, executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board.

For more information and local resources on addiction treatment and mental health services, visit The Addiction Helpline at Townhall II is available to assist people find treatment at 330-678-3006.


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