Paul Brickman, Signature Health director of marketing, discussed those plans as more than two dozen people gathered Monday night to discuss Conneaut’s growing problem with heroin and other opiates. City and county officials, school administrators, clergy members, businesspeople and others attended the 90-minute roundtable conference at the Conneaut Arts Center.

“We want to open things up and look for solutions,” said Kori Marcy Campbell, a member of Elevation, a local drug awareness group.

As part of those solutions, Brickman said Signature Health is planning to expand into Conneaut sometime in the future, beginning with the arrival of a few therapists. Later, they envision a “5,000 to 6,000 square foot facility” somewhere in town.

“We’re excited about coming out here,” Brickman said. “We’re putting a lot of time and energy into doing this. We’re looking forward to that.”

Monday’s event was moderated by Taylor Cleveland, a detective with the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office and a member of the county’s Overdose Task Force.

Taylor told the attendees that Ashtabula County ranks among the top five counties in Ohio for fatal overdoses. So far this year, 29 people have died in the county from drug overdoses.

“We have a legitimate problem in Ashtabula County,” he said.

Much of the meeting was given to a general discussion of the problem and resources already in place. Among the participants were County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci, Conneaut Municipal Court Judge Carl DiFranco, County Juvenile/Probate Court Judge Albert Camplese and Conneaut City Manager James Hockaday.

• Iarocci said notecards are being prepared that contain contact information for agencies that can help people with drug problems. The cards are meant to end confusion about treatment and help options available in the area.

• Narcan, the name for the opiate-blocker naloxone, is an effective but expensive treatment tool. One dose

can exceed $70 and in some cases multiple doses are needed to revive a patient, Cleveland said. Government funding to purchase

Narcan kits is difficult to obtain, he said, so civic and community groups might want to consider fundraisers designed to buy the kits.

• People should not be afraid to administer Narcan to someone they believe might be in the throes of an overdose, Iarocci said. Narcan cannot harm someone who is not suffering an overdose. 

“You’re not going to hurt them,” Iarocci said. “If you suspect (an overdose), give it.”

• Camplese discussed some of the drug-related programs his court is planning. The court expects to receive state certification to launch a special family drug court docket sometime this month.

• Pat Carr talked about One Step, a program aimed at older Conneaut youth that meets twice per week at St. Mary Hall on Madison Street. 

“Prevention is a big piece of (the program),” she said.

• Lori Riley, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent, said the district is looking to introduce awareness programs at Lakeshore Primary School, home to the district’s pre-school, kindergarten, first and second grade students. 

“We’re seeing behaviors in young children we haven’t seen before,” she said.

• Hockaday said people must pay

attention to unintentional overdoses caused by incidental contact with drugs others have used in public areas, such as restrooms and offices. 

“The unintentional overdose scenario is real but something that’s not talked about,” he said. “They happen in places that people wouldn’t think of. We have to make sure our public institutions are educated.”

• Tim Kraus, Conneaut Church of Christ pastor and member of the Conneaut Area Ministerial Association, said overcoming the local drug problem requires a “long-term” solution.”

“If you don’t see results in two years, keep pushing for four years,” he said. “When you step back 10 years from now, we will see the difference.”