Plans to develop an “Opioid Epidemic Task Force” in Meridian are underway.

Staff members at the New Season Recovery Treatment Center in Meridian hosted a meeting Thursday evening with a cross-section of community members. They shared the goal of beginning such a task force — one that would bring together various health professionals, emergency management providers, church members, law enforcement officers and others whose work may touch those who experience addiction.

Todd Eury, director of strategy and business development for New Season Recovery Treatment Centers, was in Meridian to help propose the task force. He noted the importance of helping different types of organizations come together rather than work separately.

"If we had a task force, we would all know who was available, who was willing to work together, and we could come together and have actionable items that each of the organizations was responsible to do,” he said, noting that group would most likely meet quarterly.

Eury described the New Season Recovery Treatment Center, which opened in Meridian in February, as a “medication-assisted treatment provider” — which offers the use of methadone for people seeking treatment for addictions. He said there are 78 New Season centers in the country, with five new centers in Ohio set to open in the coming months. The corporate address is in Maitland, Florida, and Eury’s office is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Opioid abuse task force forming in Meridian

LaKrystal Love

Weston Lindemann, Meridian City Council Member for Ward 5, said he intends to introduce a resolution to establish a Meridian Opioid Epidemic Task Force during an upcoming city council meeting. He said the agenda is set for Tuesday’s meeting, but he hopes to introduce a resolution during the second meeting in October.

“By bringing a task force together, it provides better communication and (brings) together people of all the different levels of expertise,” said Lindemann, who attended Thursday’s meeting.

A resolution, he said, would show that “the City of Meridian is formally taking an active role in combatting the opioid epidemic.”

Mary Douglas, an intensive outpatient program coordinator at Weems Community Mental Health Center, said a task force could help alert people to the different sorts of services available for addiction.

“I think it’s helpful to link people to different resources and to make it known that resources are available,” she said. 

Lt. Rita Jack, of the Meridian Police Department, was also among those who attended the meeting.

“I do know that drug abuse and alcohol abuse — any type of substance abuse — will add to your crime,” Jack said. “Our (crime) problem is likely stemming from some substance abuse. This, I feel, will certainly improve our numbers, or reduce our crime in the area, if we have facilities that help people with opioid addiction.”

Many of the people who seek treatment in Meridian are grappling with intertwined problems, said LaKrystal Love, program director for New Season Recovery Treatment Center in Meridian. She described a cycle she's observed.

“People have co-occurring disorders — like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder — that they don’t readily have the money to get help for,” she said. “I think the mental health issues can lead to substance abuse issues, and then, in turn, the substance abuse issues can exacerbate any underlying mental health issues.”

Eury underscored the importance of a network — or task force — in keeping track of various treatments and medications that a person might be receiving. He said he’s been in touch with Don Waldron Jr., with Mr. Discount Drugs, about establishing methods for tracking a patient’s medications and their interactions. Waldron attended Thursday’s meeting.

Other organizations that provide solace to residents were also represented on Thursday, such as Care Lodge Domestic Violence Shelter and Breaking Chain Ministry, in Meridian.

David Viverette, the pastor of Breaking Chain Ministry, emphasized the role of churches in helping someone with an addiction.

“There’s a (part) that the church must play,” he said, noting that pastoral counseling “works hand-in-hand” with medical and psychological treatment. As did others at the meeting, Viverette, emphasized the importance of knowing about a wide range of resources.

Viverette, whose wife Chali is the registered nurse supervisor at New Season Treatment Recovery Center in Meridian, said he might be counseling someone and realize “I went as far as I can, and now I need to send you somewhere else.”

Viverette said that timely help, of various kinds, can prevent the most tragic of results.

"That person didn't need to go to jail," he said. "He needed counseling right then."

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