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Meridian’s Dr. Daniel Brown and Jim Evans participate in addiction panel discussion

Jim Evans, Meridian Senior Vice President (far left) and Dr. Daniel Brown, Meridian Chief Medical Officer (far right) were among the participants at this event.

(Reprinted from the Warren Tribune-Chronicle)

WARREN — Local residents learned how drug addiction affects families during a panel discussion Monday at North-Mar Church.

The event, hosted by Trumbull County Children Services, included periods when people spoke with representatives from agencies throughout Trumbull County.

Panel members included Dr. Daniel Brown, chief medical officer at Meridian Healthcare; Jodie Milhoan, facilitator of Trumbull County’s Family Dependency Treatment Court; Jim Evans, senior vice president at Meridian Healthcare; Tim Schaffner, executive director of Trumbull County Children Services; and Lauren Thorp, project director of the Alliance on Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP).

Up to 15 local agencies and recovery centers had tables set up with information for attendees. A table for the Valley Counseling Services was manned by Toni Blake, community development coordinator, who said that her table had informed at least 40 people since the event had started.

“I hope that people take away that there is hope, they don’t need to suffer alone,” Blake said.

Blake added that she had seen a mix of people coming to her for information, from grandparents to parents to siblings, which she said reflects how the opiate epidemic is affecting everyone.

Renee Mraulak with the Trumbull County Children Services said the purpose of the discussion was to educate the community on how addiction affects children and the need for foster families.

“This is the first town hall we’ve ever sponsored,” Mraulak said. “The need for foster homes has increased so we’re reaching out to the people to meet the needs of our children.”

Christian Education Director Sue Dennis with First Presbyterian Church was at the Children Services’ table getting information to start a series at her church about what people can do to help in the area.

“We had thought about starting our series in September,” Dennis said, “But now after seeing the need I think we’ll start in April.”

After the initial period where people could peruse the agencies’ tables, the panel discussion began at 7 p.m. and was moderated by April Caraway, executive director for the Trumbull Mental Health and Recovery Board. During the discussion, the speakers covered various topics from how the need for foster families has increased to why people begin taking drugs.

“The common misconception is that it’s just people experimenting with drugs or looking for a high,” said Brown, who explained many factors lead to addiction ranging from generational to environmental issues to depression or medication.

Schaffner told the audience that the opiate epidemic is having an especially difficult impact on children, and said that from 2014 to 2016, the number of children in Children Services’ custody went up 40 percent.

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