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'It could actually save a life:' Summit County addiction helpline now available 24/7

Families of overdose victims praise expanded resource
Posted at 7:14 PM, Sep 01, 2022

AKRON, Ohio — On the tails of International Overdose Awareness Day, Summit County is debuting a way to make addiction help available 24/7.

Starting Thursday, September 1st, the County of Summit Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADM) Board announced its addiction helpline will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 330-940-1133.

During a press conference Wednesday, the Summit County Medical Examiner said overdose deaths so far in 2022 are on pace with the same time last year. 235 deaths in 2021 marked a 17 increase from the previous year.

“I feel like we're going to have an even worse problem than what we have today,” Cindy DeMaio told News 5.

The Cuyahoga Falls mother lost her daughter to a drug overdose in 2016. At the time, 17-year-old Rachel DeMaio was a junior at Woodridge High School and struggling with an opioid addiction.

“It’s horrifying as a parent. It’s a very helpless feeling,” Cindy DeMaio recalled. “I had her just where I wanted her – to accept that she had a problem – when a drug dealer convinced her, ‘Hey, just one more time.’ And that was the fatal dose.”

Rachel took a drug, unknowingly laced with Carfentanil. The synthetic opioid is 100x more potent than fentanyl, which itself is 50x stronger than heroin.

“My daughter passed away in my arms. I saw her take her last breath. It all happened so fast,” DeMaio said.

The teen’s death inspired her mother to create nonprofit Rachel’s Angels, which aims to raise awareness and offer anti-drug education to children, parents and schools. The organization’s recent initiative placed billboards around the Akron area with messages about fentanyl and photos of people who lost their lives to the drug.

DeMaio applauded the expansion of the ADM Board Addiction Helpline.

“I feel like it would have really helped me because I could’ve talked to somebody that had a lot more experience than I did, that maybe was in recovery or lost a child, somebody with a lot of knowledge that could have guided me in the right direction. Time is of the essence,” she said.

Jim Rauh added, “If you can avoid that deadly moment by a phone call or something else, that’s a life saved for that next day. And they get another chance to go on.”

Rauh created Families Against Fentanyl after his son Tom unknowingly took a drug laced with fentanyl and died in 2015. The organization has been advocating for fentanyl to be classified as a weapon of mass destruction.

RELATED:‘Weapon of Mass Destruction:’ NEO families call for action to stop fentanyl-related overdoses

“He was a tremendous person, even while an addict,” Rauh said of his son. “[Fentanyl] is putting our national security at risk and it's putting all of our kids’ lives at risk, and it's crushing our spirit in our families.”

Both parents agreed the stakes are getting higher for both drug use prevention and addiction help resources.

“Being able to speak to a live person, and really be provided that reassurance and information at that time, I definitely think will be a value added to our system for the citizens of Summit County,” said Kim Patton, the Associate Director of the County of Summit ADM Board.

She explained that soon after the ADM Addiction Helpline launched in January 2017, it became clear its hours should be extended beyond Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“As we all know, folks don't always necessarily reach out for help during typical business hours,” she said.

About three years later, the hours were extended until 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Outside the normal business hours, calls would go to a voicemail and staff would follow-up for treatment recommendations the following day.

September 1, 2022 ushered in around-the-clock staffing.

“That person’s reaching out at that specific time, whatever time of day it may be because they're ready, they're ready for help,” Patton said.

Now, a person calling during business hours will talk to ADM staff who can direct the caller to treatment providers. After hours, calls will now roll over to the ADM crisis helpline, where live staff will also provide immediate support, offer detox or emergency options and ensure the caller is connected with more resources when they’re available.

DeMaio and Rauh believe the expanded service could be the difference between life and death.

“It gives anyone an opportunity to call in, get information and get advice. And it could actually save a life,” said DeMaio.

The ADM Addiction Hotline number is 330-940-1133. You can learn more about addiction resources in Summit County by clicking here.

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