Advocate Takes Against Syringe Exchange | News, Sports, Jobs

WARREN – The idea of ​​safe needle exchanges in Trumbull and Mahoning counties to help people who are actively using drugs is being suggested again, this time by an advocate from outside the valley.

Dennis Cauchon, founder of Granville-based Harm Reduction Ohio, believes Mahoning and Trumbull, despite their good intentions, must “Involve more ordinary people, those who have a common experience or families who have lost a loved one. They have a good base – people have to be political leaders and do what is morally necessary to save lives.

Needle exchange programs should be approved by a local health department, such as the Trumbull County Combined Health District, Warren Board of Health, Mahoning County Public Health, and Youngstown Board of Health. Cauchon said defenders are working on a program proposal to send to each department.

Lauren Thorp, associate director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said the community has had an overall positive response to the use of opioid overdose reversal drugs Narcan and naloxone for the reduction of misdeeds.

“A few years ago a group contacted us about a needle exchange program, but as we continued with it we found it was not a viable option for our community. “ Thorp said.

AT NO-GO IN 2017

In 2017, the Trumbull County Combined Health District did not pursue a needle exchange because the idea did not garner support from other county officials, despite an apparent correlation between intravenous drug use and an increase in hepatitis C infection each year.

“The community was concerned enough that we considered having a needle exchange here,” said at the time Kathy Parrilla, public health nurse for the Trumbull County Combined Health District. “There appears to be a correlation with the increase in drug use and the increase in infectious diseases transmitted through the blood. We followed the steps set by the state for communities looking to set up needle exchanges and found that we would not get the support of county officials, which we would need to implement a program. That’s why we gave up on the idea.

Trumbull County Attorney Dennis Watkins also spoke, who said he “Vehemently disagree” with a program that would encourage anarchy. “It would be absurd” he said. “I believe you don’t give an alcoholic a car and I believe you don’t give an addict a syringe to put heroin in.”

Trumbull County has recently been successful in combating overdose deaths legally.

Trumbull and Lake counties have taken on retail drugstore chains and three – CVS, Walgreens and Walmart – were found by a jury on November 23 for recklessly dispensing large amounts of pain relievers. County lawyers have argued that overdose deaths have cost each county about $ 1 billion.

Thorp said that organization and its members were happy with the verdict.

Members of the organization were “Key witnesses to this trial and we were all very involved. We have seen the impact of opioid use in the community directly ”, she said.

Trumbull County Commissioners have initiated legal action and will be able to determine where the money is going.

“It is not for us to determine how the trial funds will be used and spent”, Thorp said.

In the United States, 96,779 drug overdose deaths were reported from March 2020 to March 2021. Of the 88 counties in Ohio, Trumbull’s overdose death ranking is 16th with 123 overdose deaths, Mahoning follows behind in eighth place with about 168 deaths in 2021, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s online database. He estimates that the number of overdose deaths in Ohio in 2021 will total between 5,100 and 5,250.


In addition to tackling overdoses, there have been discussions about how to keep vulnerable people safe and alive. This is where harm reduction comes in – a set of strategies and practical ideas aimed at reducing the negative consequences associated with drug use. It can also be applied to mental illness, wellness, general health and safety.

“Harm reduction is accepting that drugs exist in the world. They always have, always will. said Cauchon. “We develop policies based on compassion, science and human rights. We treat people who use drugs as worthy human beings.

Harm Reduction Ohio is a nonprofit organization that supports drug policies based on science, health, compassion, and human rights. Her website provides resources for people to learn about addiction, mental health issues and the overdose crisis. The organization has served Ohio since 2017.

Cauchon was previously a reporter for USA Today. One day he said he “Decided I wanted to work on the topics I was writing about and focus on the national level.” People were dying in Ohio, there were few resources. I wanted to help.

One way to help has been to advocate for statewide needle exchange programs.

The programs, according to their promoters, are proven and effective community-based prevention programs that can provide a range of services to people who actively use drugs. They provide the user with clean needles.

Almost 30 years of research has shown that comprehensive needle exchange programs are safe, effective and economical, do not increase illegal drug use or crime, and play an important role in reducing the transmission of HIV. viral hepatitis, HIV and other infections, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Twenty-two counties in Ohio have needle exchanges, with the Youngstown / Warren area as the only major metro area in all of Ohio that doesn’t, according to Cauchon.


Recently, Watkins said his feelings were similar to 2017. He mentioned that he is currently prosecuting people for illegal drug use and possession of drug-related accessories, according to the law.

“We have seen a lot of increase in overdose deaths. Using a syringe containing a deadly chemical is a very dangerous activity. … Giving anyone permission to commit a crime is a bad thing. Disease prevention is an important thing to do, but it must be measured and legal ”, he said.

Watkins also stated that he “not in favor of giving syringes with public money to drug addicts.” He did mention, however, that he does not allow his personal beliefs to interfere with his work and that he would obey the law if a needle exchange program were implemented.

Mahoning County District Attorney Paul Gains also said he “Will apply any decision taken by the county health board on the matter since it is the law.”

Resources in each county include Project DAWN, a free community drug overdose education and naloxone distribution program. Kathy Parrilla, DAWN Project Coordinator and Trumbull County Health Council Drug Overdose Prevention Coordinator, also raised the possibility of a needle exchange program.

“We sat down and talked about it, and concerns were raised,” Parrilla said. “It’s just something we’ve looked at, and there are issues that need to be addressed. What I will say is that this is something that is not going to happen in the near future.

Brenda Christensen, a public health nurse with Mahoning County Public Health, also said Mahoning County has reviewed the program and it is not planned at this time.


The Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Council provides resources to people in the community struggling with mental health and addiction issues, and its Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention coalition is important in promoting access to Narcan. The board received over 700 doses of Narcan from the Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Department and distributed it at various community events, including their Coalition Recovery Rally. He’s working with the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association to have naloxone boxes installed permanently in hotels in the area.

“Often the community and family members feel helpless when we hear about the opioid epidemic. We all want to help in one way or another and the distribution of Narcan is one small way of doing it ”, Thorp said.

The Coalition for a Drug Free Mahoning County is a nonprofit organization that provides education to prevent drug addiction and promote mental health in the community. Some of the services it offers are of different classes and providing Narcan and Naloxone.

In addition to this, there is a peer support network in the Mahoning Valley. Equitas Health has moved to Youngstown, and the community is receiving care from the Ursuline Sisters HIV / AIDS ministry.

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