Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chillicothe Campus faculty members contribute to Ross County Heroin Partnership Project

By student public relations writer Leah Sternberger

Two OU-C faculty members are involved in an effort to improve the quality of life for area residents.

On July 24, a check in the amount of $100,000 was presented to the Ross County Heroin Partnership Project kick-off meeting which took place on OU-C’s campus. The Heroin Partnership Project is a collaboration of federal, state and local agencies dedicated to working together to reduce heroin deaths. Ross County was selected as the pilot site for the federal program to create and implement a model to combat the nation-wide heroin epidemic. If Ross County is successful in lowering heroin related deaths, the model will be replicated elsewhere to help other communities struggling with the drug.

Since the kick-off meeting, the project has entered the preliminary stages of planning and research. Marguerite Hernandez, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Laura Bachus, a Lecturer of Psychology, are working on the county initiative.

“We are one piece of the big picture,” Bachus said. “The Heroin Partnership Project has very broad goals and is a community-wide, collaborative project, ranging from early education in schools to law
Laura Bachus
enforcement, assessment, and treatment. As members of Ohio University - Chillicothe, we were invited to join The Heroin Partnership Project specifically to help with data collection and analysis, which is instrumental in any project to report objective findings.”

The project is still in its infancy, but both Bachus and Hernandez are hoping that reviewing demographic information will unearth key insights about who is most at risk.

“There are several groups targeting different aspects of the heroin epidemic, including treatment, law enforcement, courts, and data analysis, which is the group that we are part of,” Bachus said. “We are working with the Ross County Coroner’s Office to determine demographic information of those who have passed away as a result of this epidemic to see if we can determine if certain groups of people are impacted more than others.”

The research and data analysis stage is critical to the success of the anti-heroin program. It will provide the foundation of knowledge necessary to develop a strategy tailored specifically to address heroin abuse in Ross County.

“Ultimately, we hope to gain greater insight into factors that make individuals vulnerable to heroin overdoses, as well as best practices for tackling the heroin epidemic in Ross Country,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez and Bachus hope that their research will ultimately lead to a healthier community. Since many OU-C students, faculty and staff live and work in Ross County, they have seen the devastation of heroin abuse first hand.

“Heroin abuse is an issue that has caused so much harm to this community and we welcome the
Marguerite Hernandez
opportunity to be part of efforts address it. A growing number of people are losing their lives to this drug in recent years, “Hernandez said.

 “I have students whose lives have been affected by this problem in a number of ways, including students who don’t feel safe taking their kids to a park because they come across used hypodermic needles on the ground, or students who avoid shopping at local businesses located in parts of town frequented by drug users.  There are students who have friends and family who have been harmed as a result of drug abuse and others who have personally struggled with addiction issues.  The knowledge we gain about this issue through research can hopefully make a contribution to larger efforts to reduce heroin-related deaths and the harm caused by the epidemic,” Hernandez said.

In addition to starting the research and data analysis phases, the program is also in the process of hiring a full-time project manager to help move the program along. While the program is not currently accepting student volunteers, Bachus and Hernandez hope to incorporate OU-C students in the future.

“It is possible that we may have an independent study project for students, or that we will incorporate data analysis into classes that are currently being taught,” Bachus said.

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