COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)– As the opioid epidemic continues to take lives in Ohio, community leaders are doing their part to get resources to the areas that need it most.
“If I get a call at two in the morning, it might be the coroner’s office,” fears Nathaniel Jordan II. “When I pick that phone up, I don’t know, it might be my brother.”
For Jordan, his mission is one that hits home. But the opioid epidemic isn’t just threatening his sibling battling addiction.
“I’ve had seven older cousins, first cousins, and all of them died of an overdose from heroin,” Jordan reveals.
Jordan took NBC4 to the Mount Vernon Plaza on Columbus’ east side — a location that his cousins used to frequent.
He calls it an epicenter of drug use, and says his community is in desperate need of more resources.
“We have to have some type of ownership to our community. So, we are driven to do anything in our power to save some lives,” Jordan urges.
Jordan is the Executive Director of the Columbus Kappa Foundation.
Through their partnership with the Ohio Department of Health, Jordan has long advocated for more equitable distribution of Narcan — the medicine used to treat overdose victims.
He blames gentrification as one of the main reasons for the divide.
“Gentrification has decreased the population by 25-40%,” says Carroll. “We could do a lot more with community organizations if we were given the opportunity to.”
With residents being forced out of minority communities, causing population numbers to dip, Jordan says it’s not a true representation of which areas need help most.
And with the use of opioids evolving, both he and health experts say minority communities are disproportionately impacted.
“In the black and brown communities, we are seeing much more overdose as it relates to a mixture of cocaine and fentanyl,” describes Alisha Nelson, the Director of RecoveryOhio with the Ohio Department of Health.
The state recently invested nearly 2.5 million dollars in Narcan distribution — deploying about 60,000 doses of the drug to 23 counties across Ohio.
They also launched their Ohio Careline — a free, emotional support call service for those struggling with mental health and addiction.
“It’s not about money for me, it’s to make sure that you make it home,” says Neal Carroll, the owner of Wizards of Haircare.
Carroll distributes Narcan out of his barbershop around the corner through Project DAWN (Death Avoidance With use of Narcan). He sees the need growing daily.
“I am in the community, and I will not allow any of the citizens I see fall victim to opiates or fentanyl if I can help it,” Carroll adds. “Everybody’s struggling, no one is better than the next person. So how can I look at them and not see myself within them?”
Project DAWN is a program through the Department of Health that has created a network of opioid overdose education and Narcan distribution centers around the state.
As of April, there were 91 registered Project DAWN programs in Ohio. The Columbus Kappa Foundation’s being one of the largest.
“Those programs are designed to give the community access to state-funded Naloxone for free, to then offer [it] to the community for free as well,” Nelson explains. “And then provide training and support and connections to treatment resources that are local, and that people understand and connect to.”
It’s through local, grassroots partnerships like these that make curbing the epidemic possible.
“I’m really glad the Governor has offered us the opportunity to do that through the RecoveryOhio initiative,” says Nelson.
Jordan explains that the state allocates 250 doses of Narcan to their foundation every quarter. However, he says they can distribute up to two times that amount in a given week.
Which is why he’s calling for state leaders to provide more funding to organizations fighting the epidemic, to help bridge the gap in the areas that need it most.
“Without the adequate resources to actually combat a problem, there’s no way whatsoever we’re going to get any results,” Jordan urges, calling for continued commitment to preventing more deaths.