Substance abuse workshop for first responders

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PARKERSBURG, W.Va.-(WTAP) Opioid addiction has become an addiction that knows no class, race or economic status.

NBC

It's even affected those whose job it is to keep people healthy.

"What started as one sample pain pill at the end of the day, ended up as 40 a day," says Lou Ortenzio, who now is Executive Director of the Clarksburg Mission. "Four to get out of bed in the morning. Then, I began to write fraudulent prescriptions and fill them at pharmacies all over Central West Virginia. To me, M.D. meant 'massive denial'."

Ortenzio was a physician who lost his license as a result of becoming an addict. He now helps people recover from addiction.

The same is true of one of the organizers of a workshop held Wednesday for first responders.

"I struggled for five years, had been arrested, and lost my children to (Child Protective Services)," says Lisa Hartline, now an attorney for Legal Aid of West Virginia.

Presenters at the day-long workshop included medical experts who talked about the effects of opioids, and what's used to treat addicts, including Narcan and Methadone.

The latter, long used for treatment, has been criticized as nothing more than a drug to treat a drug.

"A lot of people stereotype it as just switching addictions," Hartline says. "But it is actually keeping people alive, and giving them a quality of life. And it is something that is improving the overdose rates as well."

The workshop provided information to those who often administer those services to save lives.