Portage County opioid crisis: Officials support new treatment center

The+former+Altercare+nursing+home+on+245+Milford+Rd.+in+Ravenna.+Several+Portage+County+officials+hope+to+use+the+facility+for+a+new+detox+center.%C2%A0

The former Altercare nursing home on 245 Milford Rd. in Ravenna. Several Portage County officials hope to use the facility for a new detox center. 

Anna Huntsman

At the age of 12, Amanda Hiner began to abuse substances. 

“The last thing I did before I got sober was heroin, and I had about a five-year go at that,” she said.

Now, the 30-year-old Rootstown native lives at the Portage Area Recovery Center, where she has been sober for about a year.

After being incarcerated multiple times, she was sent to the center. 

“If it wasn’t for this place, I would be dead. … I came straight out of jail this time, and this place got to show me how to live,” she said. “I was used to surviving.”

While Portage County has several privately-owned detox and treatment centers, many of them are running out of space, or they’re not equipped to treat felony offenders. As a result of this, Portage County judges are low on options to send defendants who are have an active drug addiction.

More often than not, defendants are sent to detox in jail.

Hiner said it’s horrible and she underwent the detoxification process multiple times in jail. She was also rushed to the hospital one of those times due to kidney failure. 

Portage County officials agree this is not the best option.

“It’s pretty sad when you watch them detox back in jail,” said David Doak, Portage County sheriff. “This is not a mental health facility. It’s not a hospital. It’s a jail.”

Portage County judges Becky Doherty and Kevin Poland are two elected officials supporting a proposal from two non-profit agencies, Neighborhood Development Services and Family & Community Services, to use the former Altercare nursing home facility as a new residential treatment center.

It would be used for court-ordered defendants only — potentially freeing up space for the other locations to be used for the public.

“The facilities that we do have are being … utilized incorrectly because they aren’t really open to the public who need that type of facility,” Doherty said. “Their beds are all taken up by folks we order there through the court system.”

Those who live near the Altercare building, however, have expressed their concerns about a drug treatment center being in their neighborhood.

“We have no problem with people being rehabilitated,” said James Smith, a resident of Ravenna. “We just want them to be put somewhere where they don’t interfere with the neighborhood.”

The Portage County commissioners will not vote on the proposal until they can gauge whether taxpayers support the measure. The judges say the center would pay off in the long run.

“To me, it’s an investment in people, and it’s so necessary,” Doherty said.

An investment which could help others like Hiner.

“I got the gift of desperation,” Hiner said. “I didn’t want to die, so the only answer for me was to get sober and beat this.”

Anna Huntsman is TV2’s General Manager. Contact her at [email protected]