Over a year's worth of planning culminated in an open house Thursday, June 8 for the Addiction Services of Eastern Ohio (ASEO) which opened in Barnesville in April.

Barnesville Hospital Pharmacy Director Joe Jeffries said that it was a little over a year ago that local health care providers began having a conversation about the increasing impact of drug addiction on the community. That conversation led to a town hall meeting being held at Barnesville High School that was attended by over 200 people.

"That showed us how important this issue is to the community, but we were challenged by many attending to do something about it," Jeffries said. He said that the many groups involved in this collaborative effort, which include Barnesville Hospital, Ohio Hills Health Services, Belmont Professional Associates, Crossroads Counseling Services and Mental Health and Recovery Board of Belmont, Harrison and Monroe counties, had many meetings to discuss how such a service would work.

"The thing that drove us was that the crisis continued," Jefferies said, noting that in 2016 there were 4,000 deaths in Ohio due to drug addiction and that number will be higher for 2017.

ASEO Medical Director and doctor at Barnesville Hospital and Ohio Hills Health Services, Dr. Russell Lee-Wood said, "This program exists thanks to Joe."

Crossroad Counseling Services Executive Director Shannon Watson also said ASEO was the product of a year-long call to address drug addiction in the area. She discussed the comprehensive program offered and said the goal is to make the withdrawal process as pain-free as possible.

ASEO is an outpatient withdrawal management center providing services to individuals in need of withdrawal from alcohol, opiates or Suboxone/Subutex. Withdrawal management, behavioral counseling and Medically Assisted Treatment are available to those dealing with the physical craving of drugs and alcohol.

"This is a strong program because we offer group counseling at the same time as the MAT," Watson said of the peer-led counseling that helps those going through withdrawal learn from others how to cope. She said it was the combination of both that has been proven to be effective in treating addiction.

She introduced the staff which includes Shelley Campbell, secretary, Crossroads Counseling Services; Debbie McGlothlin, therapist, MSW, LISW, Crossroads Counseling Services and Megan Britton, FNP-BC, Belmont Professional Associates. Also present were Belmont County Judge Frank Fregiato, Jayne Devney, executive director of the Mental Health Recovery Board of Belmont, Harrison and Monroe counties, and Cindy Bacon, Crossroads prevention program manager and community outreach director.

Ashley Karlen, field representative for Congressman Bill Johnson's office read a proclamation congratulating Addiction Services of Eastern Ohio on its grand opening and thanking them for their efforts through the cooperation of several agencies to improve the health of the community. "Addiction has to be fought on a federal level, a state level and especially a community level," she said.

Todd Shelton, the Southeast Ohio Representative of U.S. Senator Rob Portman's office also spoke. Shelton said he covers 18 counties and is "happy to see a community coming together to fight drug addiction". Senator Portman introduced the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) which President Obama signed into law last year.

ASEO is located in the Barnesville Medical Center (lower level) and current hours are Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to noon. To learn more about ASEO and the services offered call 740-425-5780.