Fighting stigmas, one conversation at a time


By Josh Ellerbrock - jellerbrock@limanews.com



Valeri Brokaw (center right) explains her experiences advocating for children to Ohio University Professor Daniel Skinner (center left) and the larger group.

Valeri Brokaw (center right) explains her experiences advocating for children to Ohio University Professor Daniel Skinner (center left) and the larger group.


Josh Ellerbrock | The Lima News

LIMA — How did Ohio end up with so many opioid deaths?

That’s the question Daniel Skinner and Berkeley Franz, co-editors of ‘Not Far From Me’, are trying to answer as they travel the state talking to Ohio residents about their experiences with the opioid crisis. The two professors from Ohio University led one such conversation Monday night in Lima after being invited by the Lima Public Library.

“We’re trying to get connections forged when there’s not a lot of communication,” Franz said.

One of the difficulties hampering conversation about the opioid crisis, Franz said, is that there is a stigma attached to addiction, but by using stories — 54 collected throughout the state — the two are able to better facilitate discussions. For the event in Lima, Skinner introduced three short poems that utilized imagery related to blight, revival and industrial decline.

After the first poem, forum participant Valeri Brokaw made a quick association.

“My first thought was; ‘Oh, this must be about Lima,’” Brokaw said.

As the conversation progressed, however, forum participants often wrestled with the idea of Lima’s degradation and renaissance related to opioids. For example, Melissa Cruze pointed out that many towns throughout Ohio are dealing with blight and rust-belt related issues, and that Lima isn’t unique. That hasn’t stopped the bad publicity, though.

Dani Hollar, the head of the reference department, recounted the advice she received after telling her family her plans to move to the area.

“My dad said: ‘You are going to carry around pepper spray.’ … Why put that in my head before living here?” Hollar said.

Brokaw said she heard similar warnings about walks around Faurot Park.

“Is Lima worse than I think? Am I being naive? Or is fear the problem?” she said.

By the end of the discussion, Franz asked for potential solutions to the problem. For Allen County, support services for those dealing with opioid addiction has increased significantly in the last decade as government agencies have revamped mental health and first responder processes to better deal with opioids. Naloxone — an overdose prevention drug — has also become more widely available due in part to state grant dollars.

Despite the moves, Brokaw, a court-appointed child advocate, said she often deals with cases involving drug addiction. But it’s not the children who are addicted; it’s the parents, she said.

“I wonder what the impact is going to be?” Cruze, another CASA volunteer, said. “It’s going to affect a whole new generation, and it’s not their fault.”

So far, Franz and Skinner have traveled to 10 counties in Ohio for their talks, and Franz said each county has responded differently to the opioid crisis, with some openly combatting the problem with plenty of resources and others pushing the issue into the dark.

“It makes it very hard to say something just about Ohio,” Skinner said.

If other groups are looking to discuss Ohio’s relation to the opioid crisis, Skinner and Franz have put together a website, www.notfarfromme.org, where visitors can find conversation resources and a copy of the book.

Valeri Brokaw (center right) explains her experiences advocating for children to Ohio University Professor Daniel Skinner (center left) and the larger group.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2019/08/web1_Womentalking.jpgValeri Brokaw (center right) explains her experiences advocating for children to Ohio University Professor Daniel Skinner (center left) and the larger group. Josh Ellerbrock | The Lima News

By Josh Ellerbrock

jellerbrock@limanews.com

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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