CANTON  In an effort to connect the community with educational and prevention resources and to discuss the seriousness of the opioid epidemic, the Stark County District Library is hosting a three-event series.
The first event was held at the Perry Sippo Branch Library on March 22. The presentation, Opioids: Overview and Solutions, was given by Allison Esber from Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery (StarkMHAR). The second event is an Opiate Awareness Resource Fair 10 am to 1 p.m. March 31 at the 25th Street branch library.
The final part of the series is the Meet the Author event with Sam Quinones, which is also part of the Dr. Audrey Lavin Speaking of Books Author Series. The event takes place at 6:30 p.m. April 2 at the Canton Palace Theatre.
Quinones is a nationally recognized, award-winning journalist. He’ll be speaking about his latest book, “Dreamland,” which addresses America’s opiate epidemic and the rise of black tar heroin and painkillers. Quinones’ extensive research on opiates and drug trafficking has made him a leading expert on the growing crisis.
In addition, the library has received a grant from the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation to host a special student event to raise awareness among teens and educate them about the destructive effects of opiate use and to provide local schools with up to 200 copies of “Dreamland.” The library is partnering with Lake, Canton Local, Jackson, Louisville, Fairless, Massillon, Central Catholic, Northwest, Sandy Valley and Perry.
“At the Stark County District Library, we take our role as a community resource for information and facilitator for community conversations very seriously,” the library’s community engagement specialist, Jennifer Walencik, wrote in an email. “The opiate epidemic sweeping the nation is a crisis we cannot ignore and the first step in addressing the issue is education.”
Overview and Stats
During the opioid overview and solutions discussion, Esber presented details on how the crisis started and grew. While there are many events that contributed to the crisis, the significant events Esber addressed included when the crisis began in 1995 with the introduction of OxyContin.
It was promoted as a non-addictive painkiller. Around the same time, pharmaceutical companies started promoting their products on television and in print. Another contributing event occurred in 1998, when doctors started measuring pain levels of their patients.
By 2004, Oxycontin became the number one abused prescribed drug. While the pill mills were closed down in 2011, those already addicted to the prescription drugs weren’t being treated. When they couldn’t get prescriptions, they turned to heroin.
“Heroin and prescription opioids work on the brain the same way; the brain really can’t tell the difference between the two,” Esber said.
In 2013, Fentanyl usage started to increase significantly. The drug was manufactured by pharmaceuticals for cancer patients. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and came only in patch form. Esber said people began chewing the patches for the Fentanyl and eventually began to manufacture it. Because of the potency of Fentanyl, it takes a much smaller amount for an overdose.
After completing the timeline of contributing events, Esber noted that the process has progressed on “a relatively short time line for a highly complicated problem.”
Solutions that are Working
Esber spent the second half of her 90-minute presentation detailing some of the solutions that have been implemented in battling the opioid crisis.
“We’ve developed a multi-pronged approach to what we are doing in battling the crisis. It includes prevention, treatment, enforcement and policy and legislation. The governor’s Opioid Task Force was developed in 2011 and Stark County has an amazing opioid task force,” Esber said.
Some of the actions the Stark County Opioid Task Force have developed and implemented include: engaging the community, coordinating and facilitating education and prevention, working with medical professionals on prescribing practices, creating and enhancing support groups and establishing a fatal overdose review committee.
The task force has also implemented many activities around the county such as participating or promoting National Day of Remembrance for overdose victims, hosting an opiate symposium, holding Prescription Drug Take Back Days and providing prescription drug collection boxes.
“Anyone can drop off unused prescriptions at any one of the 17 boxes at police departments around the county,” Esber said. “Over 18,000 pounds of meds have been collected in the collection boxes.”
Another important solution is Project DAWN, which stands for Deaths Avoided with Naloxone. Law enforcement and medical professionals have been equipped with Project DAWN kits to help reverse the effect of an overdose.   
Upcoming Events
There were about 20 people in attendance for the first of the three community events the library has planned.
“We wanted to hold the presentation this evening to help further educate the community, and it is a lead up to our featured author event on April 2,” Perry Sippo Branch First Assistant Adult Programmer Vickie Colangelo said.
For more information about the author talk, call Stark County District Library at 330-458-2699 or visit