County Leaders Discuss Tackling Opioid Epidemic From Local Level

Jul 24, 2017

The National Association of Counties has spent the last four days convening at the convention center in Columbus, bringing together thousands of county leaders from across the county to discuss issues affecting local government.

This year's conference included a town hall on the opioid epidemic, a growing health crisis that's been shouldered by many rural counties.  

The panel consisted of four specialists, including an epidemiologist from the Center for Disease Control and the CEO of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County.

Mark Polocarz, a panelist and elected official from Erie County in New York, had a message for local government officials like himself: Rather than waiting for solutions to come from federal or state levels, county officials need to take a leadership role.

"They need to be the face to say there’s a problem in our community and we’re going to solve it," Polocarz says.

Polocarz stressed the importance of collaborating with local organizations, as well as local governments in nearby counties. Drug traffics move across state and county lines, Polocarz says, so any solutions must also be widely accessible.

“[Local governments] need to work together combined as a region,” Polocarz says. “If you don’t, you’re going to fail.”  

Topics that evening focused mainly on prevention, specifically the growing rate of Hepatitis C among intravenous drug users. Experts say the expensive and often debilitating disease is avoidable by implementing more needle exchange programs.