Gift baskets thanking safety forces for their help in fighting the county’s opioid epidemic were dropped off Monday at the Wellington police station.
Wellington was one of many communities to receive the baskets from the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Lorain County as part of First Responder Appreciation Week.
Mike Goss, pastor at United Church of Huntington, personally handed the baskets to police Lt. Jeff Shelton, fire chief Mike Wetherbee, and South Lorain County Ambulance District director Skip Gentry.
The pastor and his church have helped steer many people struggling with addiction toward the Local Initiative Networking Compassion. The LINC program was started in 2016 by Wellington police and has now helped place 52 people in rehabilitation centers across the county.
In fact, one person struggling with addiction was at the station seeking LINC help as the gift baskets were presented. Another drug user had approached officers the previous day as well.
“We as citizens don’t understand what you carry around with you each day,” Goss told emergency workers. “Thank you for what you do day in and day out, what you do for our community and four our citizens. Please know there’s a whole group of people you can always reach out to, whether that’s me, the ADAS board, anyone.”
Lorain County’s First Response Coalition partnered with the ADAS board in handing out the baskets.
“It’s a community engagement workgroup that was formed about six months ago,” Goss said. “It’s an invitation to citizens, businesses, and organizations in Lorain County to rally around the opioid epidemic. It’s really helping people get on the same page in how to respond to the problem.”
Gifts included proclamations and thank you videos from Ohio officials including Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine, snacks, artwork by local students, and tutorials on how to protect yourself from fentanyl exposure during a rescue.
Goss also made stops in Oberlin, Rochester, LaGrange, and Camden Township. Helping was Logan Bowman, a 2017 Wellington High School graduate who went through the LINC program after overdosing on heroin.
“We’ve already helped four new people since the new year began,” Goss said. “The word is out. People know they can come here and get our help. We’re placing people from four or five counties away sometimes. They see it on Facebook. They hear it through the rumor mill. Hospitals know we have this program. It’s all based on building faith in the community.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.