Greg interviews Michael Summers, the mayor of Lakewood, Ohio – an inner ring suburb right outside downtown Cleveland. Since 2015, the number of opioid overdoses in Lakewood has more than tripled, and Mayor Summers and his team have developed a new program called SOAR (Supporting Opiate Addiction Recovery) to combat the growing crisis.

Greg asks Mayor Summers about how SOAR started and what it aims to achieve in helping those with substance abuse disorder. Mayor Summers explains that leaders across the city came together to discuss and coordinate a plan of action to fight the opioid epidemic in Lakewood. In their meetings, they decided that they had to address three elements – drug interdiction, education, and rehabilitation – and to do this they had to find a way to make those who needed help feel safe enough to seek it.  “What we identified based on other programs across the country was [a] peer based response, and the idea that someone who has had an overdose would be the focus of our initial efforts. We would meet with [a person with substance abuse disorder] in a very thoughtful way to capture this moment in time where they might have a sense of vulnerability and a need to make a change in their lives. And the best way to do that would be to create a peer response. So, normally you might show up as a social worker, or a police officer, or some element that would not necessarily recognize the addiction and the road to recovery, but would indicate penalties and consequences. [But] we have accepted the fact that this is an addiction, it is a health related challenge, and therefore we need to do a more thorough job of showing up with someone who can empathize, not scare away, and provide insightful conversation about serious options.”

Listen to the podcast to discover how the community of Lakewood is continuing to work together to build awareness and support for those affected by the opioid epidemic.