National Town Hall on Opioid Addiction – “Your Voice, Your Future”

By Benjamin Smid

Students and members of the local community packed the Jeremiah Chapel last Wednesday for the national town hall on opioid addiction, Your Voice. Your Future.  Although the temperature was below zero and the wind chill factor well below that, Cedarville students came out of their dorms on a day of cancelled classes to attend the event.

Eric Bolling hosted the event with Sinclair Broadcasting, speaking to many different panelists about their personal involvement and experiences concerning opioid abuse.


Guests included:

  • Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (via video)
  • Former Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor
  • Founding Dean of Cedarville’s School of Pharmacy, Dr. Mark Sweeney
  • Member of the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council and husband of Dr. Beth Delaney from Cedarville’s School of Nursing, Pastor Greg Delaney
  • Ohio House District 80 Representative, Jena Powell
  • Whitehall, Ohio’s Assistant Fire Chief, Christopher Menapace
  • Columbus Springs Psychologist, Dr. John Tilly
  • Chief Executive Officer of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, Ohio, David Royer

Eric Bolling was very intentional in directing the discussion towards the most impactful aspects to fighting the opioid epidemic.  The main points of discussion included, 1. Educating youth on the seriousness of opioid addiction, 2. Removing the stigma of shame attached to victims of opioid addiction, 3. Seeking help when help is needed, 4. Creating a network of support to help victims throughout the rehabilitation process, and 5. Reducing the number of opioids prescribed to patients.

First, Bolling and Menapace both indicated that the biggest barrier in overcoming the opioid epidemic is destroying stigmas.  Parents, especially, think that their children are above opioid addiction, and don’t understand the all-inclusive demographics that the epidemic reaches.  When this is achieved, there will be many beneficial, natural repercussions.

Secondly, regarding education, Bolling and Royer both noted the impact that parents can have on their children by having conversations with them about opioid use.  These conversations will increase when the stigma attached to those addicted to opioids is removed. Bolling was also very adamant about the need for opioid education in the K-12 school system.

Thirdly, encouraging people to seek help was a major focus of the panel.  Menapace described ways that the fire department is encouraging individuals to seek help.

The fire station is open 24/7 to anyone who wants help with an opioid problem.  The individual is treated with respect upon arriving at the fire station, and police are not notified.  Rather, they are given detox and connected with treatment facilities that will help them in the recovery process.  Additionally, anyone who comes to the station with friends or family who are in need of help are given Narcan to treat overdoses, as well as fentanyl test strips.  Likewise, Ohio recently passed a Good Samaritan law, which protects those who call in to get help for a friend or family member from arrest. These types of changes are encouraging people addicted to opioid to pursue help.

Fourthly, the strategy that Bolling talked about the most was community support.  Again, alongside destroying the stigma comes the support of those who suffer from opioid addiction as they seek help and go through rehab.  Dr. Sweeney put it well when he said that ultimately what is needed is “an ecosystem of support.” A complex problem requires a multifaceted, all-encompassing solution.

Lastly is a main reason people become addicted to opioids in the first place, overprescribing.  Three of the panelists mentioned that decreasing opioids prescribed to patients was something that could be and is being done by legislature to fight against the problem.  Dr. Sweeney worded it, “We have lost the ability to assess people’s ability to cope with life.” Instead, doctors are quick to prescribe opioids, often without first trying alternative treatments.

In the end, the takeaway from the town hall “Your Voice. Your Future” was for victims of opioid addiction to seek community support.  This is not something that anyone can fight in isolation, and the more the stigma of addiction is removed, the more likely people are to seek the help they need, and do it with friends and family supporting them all the way.

The event was, for the most part, well received by the audience.  However, both Cedarville students and faculty noted after the event that they would have liked the panelists to go into more depth about tangible ways we can fight the epidemic.  Many also expressed that they would like to hear Dr. Sweeney talk more about the issue.

Derrick Green, Chair of the Communication Department at Cedarville University, expressed his approval of the night. “Two things that stood out for me were the emphasis on community and the emphasis on communication.  I was pleased with the way the town hall looked at the issue from multiple perspectives.”

Overall, Eric Bolling and Sinclair Broadcasting put on an informative, concise, awareness-raising event.  As we work together as a country to fight opioid addiction, let us remember that that is the only way we will see progress, united effort.

Benjamin Smid is a sophomore Communication major and Campus News writer for Cedars. He enjoys singing tight harmonies, managing schedules, and having deep conversations of any kind.


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