BY SHERI TRUSTY
During Overdose Awareness Day held on Wednesday, Aug. 31 across the State of Ohio, dozens of people gathered in downtown Port Clinton to remember those lost to addiction and to support those still battling it. Attending the event were the people who have linked arms to make Ottawa County a place of hope and camaraderie in the fight against overdose.
On the stage and in the crowd were county leaders and many people in recovery who face addiction with a no-man-left-behind conviction. Together, they are doing everything they can to stop overdose deaths in Ottawa County.
Ottawa County Health Department Health Educator Michelle Veliz, who organized the event, said she is working with Ottawa County Health Commissioner Jerry Bingham and the other members of the Ottawa County Prevention Coalition to create a full frontal attack on addiction.
“We keep showing up and keep doing the work and keep picturing the day those numbers will decrease,” she said.
Keynote speakers were Trevor Johnson of the Ottawa County Drug Abuse Response Team (DART), Ottawa County Sheriff Stephen Levorchick, and Jared Cook, Ryan Clifton and Damion Tall, who shared their stories of overdose and recovery.
Throughout the event, local organizations set up booths to distribute information on recovery resources. Many of them were instrumental in Cook’s recovery.
“Most of these booths are what saved me,” Cook said. “There is another way of life, and it is beautiful.”
When asked to pick a milestone moment in his recovery, Cook said there isn’t one.
“Seeing my friends getting to their first year of sobriety or seeing them go through hard times and not drinking or using is beautiful,” Cook said. “It’s not one moment. It’s all the little God moments, like seeing the community show up for this.”
One of the foundational reasons Ottawa County has been able to embrace its residents who struggle with addiction is because many in leadership positions recognize and value the person behind the drugs. Johnson said Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters and Sheriff Levorchick treat those in recovery as people, not as numbers.
“No matter how lost you might feel, it’s never too late and you’re never too old,” Johnson told the crowd. “You’re never too far gone. I’ve learned that from our judges.”
Levorchick called Ottawa County “a loving community” where he didn’t have to pull people into the fight against addiction and overdose.
“Many of you here tonight are family and friends to me,” Levorchick said. “My door is open. If you need me, come see me.”
Having a sheriff, a judge and a health commissioner who are focused on fighting the drugs instead of the people addicted to them has breathed hope into the county’s recovery community.
“We are so blessed to be in Ottawa County. Ottawa County is light years ahead of some others,” Veliz said. “If you are struggling, the good news is, you are struggling in a good place.”