(Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include Psych and Psych Services among the partners in LINC.)
WELLINGTON — Lorain County residents battling addiction are invited to seek help today at the LINC of Lorain County’s harm-reduction clinic in the village.
The program will be 1 to 4 p.m. today, and every other Friday from now on, at the Wellington United Methodist Church, 127 Park Place. It is one of 17 such programs in Ohio serving 19 counties.
Harm-reduction strategies involve getting people with addiction into addiction treatment programs; preventing the spread of communicable diseases such as hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and others through testing and education; peer support, counseling and resources for families whose loved ones are battling addiction; safe syringe disposal; and insurance resources, among others.
Addiction is a disease, Wellington Police Chief Tim Barfield said, and programs like the harm-reduction clinic reduce deaths from accidental overdose, reduce the spread of disease and promote safer communities.
Reports and studies “unanimously support the conclusions that harm-reduction programs reduce HIV/AIDS and hepatitis transmission and none have found that collecting and providing supplies caused rates of drug use to increase,” according to LINC of Lorain County, which stands for Local Initiative to Network Compassion. “Additionally, many studies affirm that these programs help to encourage and facilitate entry into treatment programs and healthy lifestyle changes.”
Along with LINC, partners in the harm-reduction clinic include Alcohol and Drug Addiction Service Board of Lorain County, Lorain County Public Health, the Nord Center, the Nord Family Foundation, Psych and Psych Services, Let’s Get Real, The LCADA Way, Firelands Counseling, University Hospitals and The Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
Organizers said harm- reduction strategies have proved successful in battling the drug epidemic and addiction in 19 Ohio counties, particularly when it comes to opioid addiction — heroin, morphine and prescription painkillers among them.
LINC started in March 2016 because “what we were doing” — locking up people with substance use disorders — “wasn’t working,” Barfield said.
“We’d arrest people, they’d go to court and be let out on bond,” he said. “Then they’re stealing from family or friends or overdosing. You’ve got to understand, I have no problem arresting people and illegal drug use is a crime. But addiction is a disease, and many people just don’t understand that. This is truly an attempt to help people.”
Since the LINC program’s inception, Barfield said, 120 people in the village have sought and received help in their struggles with addiction, and the harm-reduction clinic “just seemed to be the perfect match” and logical next step. He said he recently presented the Wellington model of combating addiction at an international police conference in
St. Louis, sharing the project with officers from around the world.
“What we find here is that when we get people off these drugs, they can become productive members of society,” he said. “If we can get them help, they stop committing crimes. This is who I think the Wellington Police Department is. We have to work in this community and try to help and make a difference. In this case, I know we’re making a difference.”
Other public health and addiction services advocates said they were pleased to be a part of the program.
“We’ve been plagued by the opioid epidemic in Lorain County and have long as a community been embattled by the disease of addiction,” Lorain County Health Commissioner Dave Covell said in a news release. “Opening this clinic in Wellington is a critical step in our efforts to create a healthier community and encourage people to embark on their path through treatment and recovery.”
“Drug use is a complex, multifaceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence. As a community, we meet people who are struggling with substance use disorders where there are,” said Elaine Georgas, executive director of the ADAS Board of Lorain County.
LINC of Lorain County provides access points and connections to treatment. More information can be found at the group’s Facebook page.
Anyone with questions about the program who is ready to enter detox or recovery is encouraged to call the Wellington Police Department at (440) 647-2244 or stop by the Wellington police station at 117 Willard Memorial Square, the Wellington Fire Department at 202 Kelly St. or the South Lorain County Ambulance District offices at 179 E. Herrick Ave. for immediate access to resources.