Sharing information, ideas: Opioids one of the many topics discussed at Regional Summit

A localized panel — consisting of Erin King, Centra Wellness Network director of CAP Services; Tim Kozal, City of Manistee director of Public Safety; John O’Hagan, Manistee County sheriff; and Robert Medacco, director of Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Department of Public Safety — spoke on the impact opioid addiction has had on Manistee County and what is being done to combat it at Manistee County's annual Regional Summit. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

A localized panel — consisting of Erin King, Centra Wellness Network director of CAP Services; Tim Kozal, City of Manistee director of Public Safety; John O’Hagan, Manistee County sheriff; and Robert Medacco, director of Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Department of Public Safety — spoke on the impact opioid addiction has had on Manistee County and what is being done to combat it at Manistee County’s annual Regional Summit. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

MANISTEE COUNTY — Once a year a microcosm of Manistee County can be found under one roof during the Regional Summit, a forum that brings the area’s elected officials, agencies and general public together to focus on communication and common goals.

The 15th annual installment of the event was held Thursday at the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts of Manistee.

“We’re made up of different townships, but address a lot of the same issues,” said Karen Goodman, Manistee County commissioner and member of the Regional Summit committee. “It’s important that the county as a whole gets together like this to share information and ideas.”

While Thursday’s agenda was made up of a long list of guest speakers delivering presentations on a wide range of topics, the nationwide opioid epidemic was one of the themes to this year’s summit.

“This is an epidemic that does not discriminate,” Goodman said. “People need to know it can affect your neighbors, friends, family and children.”

A localized panel — consisting of Erin King, Centra Wellness Network director of CAP Services; Tim Kozal, City of Manistee director of Public Safety; John O’Hagan, Manistee County sheriff; and Robert Medacco, director of Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Department of Public Safety — spoke on the impact opioid addiction has had on Manistee County and what is being done to combat it.

“We can’t ignore it, because it’s definitely here and affecting our community,” said O’Hagan, “and it’s just a matter of time before we all see somebody close to us affected by it.

“We have to do something, and I think we’re taking some great steps as a community, working collaboratively.”

Kozal agreed that collaboration is key in spreading awareness and education.

“We have to keep educating people,” he said, “and promote peer support to help the people who are having an issue.

“When you first start thinking about addiction, you may say it’s not going to affect me, it’s not going to affect my family,” he explained, “but drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Ninety-one Americans die every day of opioid overdose.”

Kozal said an average household contains 70 prescription pills per adult at any given time, stressing the importance of proper disposal of these medications.

A simple way for area residents to do this, Kozal said, is by utilizing the “Red Med Boxes” found at various locations around town.

A Red Med Box looks like a red mail box but is used for the proper disposal of unwanted over-the-counter and prescription medications. Red Med Boxes are located at Family Fare, the Manistee City Police Department, the Manistee County Sherriff’s Office and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Department of Public Safety Station. A similar secure disposal box — “MedSafe” — is also located in the lobby of Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital.

The boxes at all five locations are available year-round, and accept all types of medications, from prescription to over-the-counter to multivitamins.

King touched on the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program that Centra Wellness has been offering to help those struggling with opioid addiction.

MAT is an evidence-based practice designed to assist Manistee and Benzie county residents in need of help, King said.

A Suboxone treatment — which blocks certain receptors in the brain stimulated by opioids that lead to cravings — is done under the care of an addictionologist. The program also includes therapy for clients, which can take the form of individual or group sessions.

In the afternoon session of Thursday’s summit, Dr. Brian McComb of Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital gave a presentation on the treatment of opioid addiction.

The summit began with a welcome and introductions from Jeff Dontz, chair of the Manistee County Board of Commissioners, along with Manistee County controller/administrator David Kieft Jr., equalization director Heather Vasquez, deputy equalization director Lisa Senters and Manistee County Sheriff deputy Brandon Gillispie and K-9 officer Beno.

The morning session began with presentations from Kathryn Kenny, executive director of the Manistee County Visitor’s Bureau, and Marv Radtke and Lori Pung, consultants from the Alliance for Economic Success.

Kenny discussed recreational trails and their potential economic impact on Manistee County. Radtke and Pung’s presentations focused on the AES’s House Manistee and broadband initiatives.

Aileen Waldron of the United States Department of Agriculture gave a presentation on USDA grants; Laura Heintzelman, president and CEO of the Manistee County Community Foundation, presented how philanthropy can help build the future of Manistee County; and Mark Fedder, executive director of the Manistee County Historical Museum, closed out the event with a presentation on the history behind some of the buildings on River Street.

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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