Love conquers all. That is a pretty definitive statement. But for the parent of a son or daughter addicted to opiates, it is an even bigger statement.
Lesha Cuttaia graduated from Port Clinton High School. Her life was going great until 1998. She was working in the automotive world making a great career for herself having moved to Toledo in 1999. Her son, Franklin, called her one day from Athens, Ohio, and said, “Mom, come get me…I need help!” No, he wasn’t in an auto accident; he was using legally prescribed Oxycodone opiate pills. “I never knew anybody on opiates before,” said Lesha. Her son was experiencing one of the bad affects of opiate use…his organs began going dormant. Lesha knew she needed to find help for her son, but where? There was no help available as far as she knew.
A short time later, she left the auto business and began working for “A Renewed Mind”, a mental health and addiction clinic in Toledo to learn all she could about mental health and addiction issues. She has since become a licensed chemical dependency counselor and has become all too familiar with the problems affiliated with addictions. Her focus is addictions; her passion is opiates. What she has found is scary. The use of opiates, including prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet, are no longer just issues in the big cities. They have found a home in Ottawa County.
In the past two weeks, there have been two nasty incidents in Ottawa County involving opiate use…an alleged abduction and rape as well as a 33 year old individual assaulting his grandmother who had confronted him about stealing her Xanex. Heroine overdoses have become all too common, even here in quiet Ottawa County. Six Overdoses were reported to authorities in eastern Ottawa County alone in the past few weeks. In the last year there have been several fatal overdose events. Does the name Phillip Seymour Hoffman ring a bell?
Lesha, along with her son, Franklin, have worked with the problem for the last 15 years, mostly in Toledo. Franklin has had several relapses over that time which eventually led him to heroine use. He would quit, but refused to work a full rehab program. He spent some time just hitchhiking around the U.S., and one day was picked up by a man named Mike, who has a place called Rusty’s House in Toledo, named after his son who died of an overdose. Mike told Franklin that quitting wouldn’t work unless he dedicated himself to a full rehab program. He did and has been clean for 2 years now.
There is now help for those battling with these highly addictive substances. Lesha and Franklin recently (April 16) started a Facebook Page and a Foundation dedicated to helping addicts. The name of the Foundation: F*** Heroine Foundation”. (Lesha says it’s called that because that is what addicts generally say when they finally beat their addiction). They just started the Facebook page and it has already engaged literally hundreds seeking help. As of May 7, nearly 200 Ottawa County residents had engaged the Facebook page.
Lesha has personally worked with a number of Toledo area law enforcement agencies, and has begun to make contact with local law enforcement in Ottawa County. There is little law enforcement can do when confronted with a user. Subjects are rarely arrested. A common user spends between $50 and $300 a day on opiates. Addicts in need of money often commit crimes to get what they need.
She also works closely with a specialized rehab facility in Florida. With her license as a chemical dependency counselor and her fervent desire to meet the problem head on, Lesha Cuttaia is trying to become a local conduit for serious help for those users in need. Her son is now 34 years of age and has joined his mom in this crusade.
So what are the early signs of opiate abuse? Withdrawing from family, lack of responsibility and trustworthiness, poor decision making, poor hygiene, acting extremely fatigued, spending lots of time in the bathroom, or developing an ashen skin color.