LISBON - A member of Gov. John Kasich's cabinet visited town Tuesday after watching the governor deliver his State of the State address earlier in the day in nearby Steubenville.
Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Director Orman Hall toured the Fleming House, an alcohol/drug abuse treatment and transitional residence for woman and their children. Hall said when Kasich was preparing to deliver the speech in Steubenville, he told his cabinet directors to find a local program of excellence to spotlight, "and I thought of the Fleming House."
Hall said Fleming House, which is run by the Family Recovery Center, and the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Board is recognized as operating among the premier substance-abuse programs in the state.
The rise in opiate addiction - prescription painkillers - is the biggest substance-abuse problem facing Ohio. In 1997, seven opiates were prescribed for every Ohioan, but by 2010 the figure had skyrocketed to 67.
In Columbiana County, the number of deaths by accidental opiate overdose has tripled from 0.89 per 100,000 residents in 2000 to 2.78 by 2008. The number of clinic patients with opiate addictions has more than doubled, from 1.8 percent in 2001 to 4.2 in 2009.
While the problem is much worse in southern Ohio, Hall said every county is affected, and then he highlighted some of the Kasich administration's two-prong approach to address the epidemic, such as cracking down on so-called "pill mills" while continuing to focus on treatment.
Preliminary data for 2011 showed the rate of opiate prescriptions per person dropped last year, "so we have seen a decrease," said Eric Wandersleben, communications manager for Hall's department.
Several past and present residents of the Fleming House addressed the gathering, and each told about how the program saved their lives and the lives of their children in almost every sense.
"Hi, my name is Amy and I'm an alcoholic. When I came to this home I was a broken person, but this program works," said Amy, who is now in college.
Another Amy spoke of how her child was taken from her because of her drug addiction and officials wanted to put her up for adoption. Amy said she had gotten her life together at the Fleming House, and now she is scheduled to be reunited with her daughter.
"I have a beautiful home now and my daughter has a bedroom," she said.