County tackles heroin epidemic

Commissioner Fred Zoeller spoke about the “epidemic” of opiate addiction and what the county can do to rectify the problem during the Seneca County Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

After attending a seminar in Columbus Monday, he said someone can become addicted after using heroin once. The county needs to be educated on the consequences of using drugs such as heroin and abusing prescription drugs, he said.

“There are more … heroin- and prescription drug-related deaths in the state of Ohio than … traffic deaths,” he said. “There are more people dying in the state of Ohio with drug overdoses related to heroin and prescription drugs than what there are … on the highway. That’s monumental.”

Several suggestions were made at the seminar to help stop the epidemic, Zoeller said. Seneca County judges are to look into scheduling a town meeting to get public input on the issue.

Another suggestion was the creation of a drug recovery court, where individuals would complete drug tests and go before a judge every week.

Zoeller said money from the state is available to support some attempts to curb drug abuse.

In other business, commissioners approved revision and implementation of the Prevention, Retention and Contingency Plan with Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services.

Director Kathy Oliver said DJFS gets federal funds through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, but some of the funding can be used for flexible services through the PRC Plan, Oliver said.

After meeting with community partners, they decided where changes were needed, Oliver said.

The plan includes assistance for reliable transportation, such as car repairs, and the subsidized employment program, which pays 100 percent of wages for employees at participating businesses for up to four months.

The plan also includes job training for high-demand occupations such as truck drivers and state-tested nurse aides, she said.

The cap on heating assistance also has been increased from $500 to $750 due to last winter’s harsh weather, Oliver said.

She said the federal money also can be used for the purchase of school clothes and applications are being accepted Tuesday and July 9. More information can be found at

In another matter, Diana Silveira of Peck, Shaffer and Williams spoke to commissioners about Volunteers of America’s plan to build a new health care facility allowing for specialized care for geriatric and psychiatric patients, along with transitional care.

Silveira said the original plan was to issue bonds in December 2013, but interest rates got too high. While rates are down now, construction costs and the cost of issuance has increased, Silveira said.

She proposed an increase in the bond amount from $18 million to $20 million, along with extending the maximum maturity time from 35 years to 37 years.

Autumnwood Care Center Executive Director Sally St. Clair said she hopes to break ground this year.

Tuesday, the board approved a resolution amending and supplementing the original resolution, that was adopted Oct 15, 2013.

In other business, Seneca County Engineer Mark Zimmerman said meetings are to start soon encouraging landowners to clean Wolf Creek Ditch themselves

After communicating with Seneca Soil and Water Conservation District Program Administrator Tia Rice, Zimmerman said Soil and Water is to meet with landowners and mark items to be removed. To begin work, he said contract administration funds need to be put into place.

The county would be reimbursed for all contract work after assessments are completed, Zimmerman said.

He also said another letter is to go out soon reminding residents they can save by completing the work themselves. He said the county is to work with residents who wish to start removal immediately.

The board agreed to provide funding for contract administration.

In new business, the board approved:

An appropriation adjustment of $2,425.83 within the General Fund.

A resolution authorizing an amendment to the Seneca County Agency Transportation contract on behalf of DJFS.

A resolution increasing the Indigent Counsel Caps for Seneca County, effective with submission of bills to court on or after July 1.

A resolution authorizing the 2015 Workers’ Compensation Group Retrospective rating plan agreement between Seneca County and County Commissioners Association of Ohio.

A resolution allowing more funds to be accepted for the Patchworks House Access Visitation Grant on behalf of DJFS.

Setting 10:30 a.m. July 31 at the commissioners office as the time, date and place to receive sealed requests for proposals for transportation services for the Seneca County DJFS.