On Wednesday evening, community members and leaders gathered at the Delaware County District Library in Delaware for a drum circle and discussion about opioids.
The meeting was held to commemorate Central Ohio Symphony Executive Director Warren Hyer’s therapeutic drumming program with the Delaware County Juvenile Court. The program is featured in the book “Not Far from Me: Stories of Opioids and Ohio.”
The book, co-edited by Berkeley Franz and Dan Skinner, tells a variety of true stories about the opioid epidemic throughout the state. Hyer’s drumming program for young people with alcohol, drug or behavior problems is the focus of one chapter, written by Hyer himself.
The participants of Wednesday’s discussion sat in a circle around the drums and Hyer led them in an abbreviated version of the program he puts on. Hyer taught basic rhythms and explained the psychological benefits to each exercise. For example, he demonstrated how drum circle participants say their name before playing a short beat on the drum, which is then repeated by the other members of the circle several times.
“It’s a self-affirming technique,” Hyer said. “Youth are often yelled at or being given orders. This way, they hear their name the way they want to hear it. There’s an immediate change of attitude.”
Hyer also gave everyone in the circle a shaker and had them rhythmically pass them to their neighbor on one side. He asked them to do it again but in the oppose direction, which was much more disjointed. Hyer said this exercise shows how hard it is to change small things, and he asked the participants how hard it must be to change big things, like addiction.
Franz, one of the editors of the book and an Ohio University faculty member, attended Wednesday’s discussion. She explained that the whole purpose of the book was to share stories to help different communities in Ohio.
“Ohio has a lot to teach others about the opioid epidemic, because Ohio is among the hardest hit states,” Franz said. “We thought if we could at least get the conversations started that would help with the stigma in some way. What we’ve found is that when someone hears somebody else’s story, they are more willing to open up and share their own story.”
City of Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski was one of the participants at the discussion. He said the police department is working with the school district to try and educate juveniles who may have addictive personalities before they start using.
“Some people take one time and they are addicted,” Pijanowski said. “Instead of waiting for someone to be addicted and need help, let’s impact them before that point. Let’s repetitively teach them what the downfalls and dangers are so that if they have to make that decision, they have all the information.”
Deanna Brant, executive director of Delaware-Morrow Mental Health & Recovery Services Board, was another participate of the discussion. She said the younger a person is when they first use opioids, the more likely they are to get addicted. Brant stressed how important it is to delay an individual’s first use of opioids through other medication or pain management.
“No preventative measure is (100% effective) but that would have a huge impact on the number of new people who are addicted,” Brant said.
She added juveniles are more responsible than they are usually given credit for, and she referenced a teen who turned down an opioid prescription after having dental surgery because they didn’t want to touch opioids.
Pijanowski said that his department and the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board are creating a new service coordinator position at the police department and that person’s job will be to follow up after substance abuse or behavioral health issues in an attempt to connect the involved people to resources they can use to get help or treatment.
“People who want help will get it,” Pijanowski said. “But we want to connect to people who don’t want help.”
Franz said there are resources on the website for the book, https://notfarfromme.org/, for communities to start and guide conversations about opioids.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.