Login | September 21, 2018

Judges, concerned citizens put community goals On the Table

Shelly and Travis Bornstein discuss possible solutions to the opiate epidemic Oct. 3 during an On the Table Greater Akron session at Summit County Common Pleas Court. At far right is homecare consultant Michael Gilbride. (Tracey Blair/Legal News)

Legal News Reporter

Published: October 13, 2017

Travis and Shelly Bornstein lost their only son, Tyler, to a fatal heroin overdose three years ago.

The 23-year-old all-around athlete from Akron became addicted to pain pills after first being prescribed opiate pain medicine after breaking his arm at age 11.

On Sept. 28, 2014, Tyler – who had begun taking heroin to deal with opiate withdrawals – overdosed. Instead of calling 911 for help, his companion left him in a vacant lot to die.

To deal with their grief while trying to bring awareness to the heroin epidemic, Tyler’s parents, Travis and Shelly Bornstein, started the nonprofit group Breaking Barriers - Hope Is Alive last year.

“Opiate addiction is the single largest issue facing every community in this country,” Travis Bornstein said.

The Bornsteins were among an estimated 6,000 people who attended the first “On the Table Greater Akron” event Oct. 3.

On the Table is a unique initiative organized by Akron Community Foundation, where thousands of diverse people from all walks of life and socioeconomic backgrounds gather to share a free meal and discuss meaningful ideas to strengthen the community.

Anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Summit County was invited to host one of numerous mealtime conversations in homes, restaurants, coffee shops, schools, libraries, offices, parks and churches.

Each group of people decided among themselves which issue or issues were priorities in the Greater Akron area.

The Bornsteins took part in a conversation led by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall Jones during an informal lunch in the Akron court house atrium.

Judge Jones’ group also included several attorneys, a retired police officer, a volunteer Summit County Probate Court guardian, an interior designer, Community Legal Aid Executive Director Steven McGarrity and home health care employees.

“Drugs are a huge deal right now,” Judge Jones said. “Kids are getting taken out of their homes, and they will be affected for life. How should we address this in Summit County? I get frustrated going to these committee meetings when people keep saying opiates are a problem. When do we talk about solutions? What does and doesn’t work?”

Travis Bornstein replied, “We have to start with two things: respond with love and compassion. I don’t think we should ever give up on anyone, ever. We need long-term aftercare programs to help people in the county. We have some ideas about trying to fill the gaps in the community for recovery. The usual 30-, 60-, 90-day treatment? It doesn’t work. We would like to see a one-year regional treatment facility for Summit, Portage and Stark counties. This would be an $8 million to $10 million project. We’ve already raised more than $1 million. But love and compassion is key.”

Summit County Probate Court Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer said her On the Table group of 12 was mainly concerned about feeling disconnected from their community.

“There was a sense that people don’t talk to each other, have a chance to meet their neighbors or perceive themselves as being part of their school system,” Judge Stormer said.

Possible solutions discussed included starting a true online community calendar that would list all upcoming events in the county.

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Joy Malek Oldfield’s group included a healthcare advocate, a social worker, a Social Security employee, a church pastor and Summit County Councilwoman Paula Prentice.

“We just talked about how to gain an understanding of people who are not like you, which I really liked,” said Judge Oldfield. “There was a lot of talk in our group about caring for those trying to access senior services. We made a list of people in our group and shared contact information with each other.”

Summit County Probate Court Magistrate Nicole Walker hosted her own On the Table Greater Akron session earlier that morning at Artisan Coffee in Akron.

At the end of each group’s session, attendees completed a short survey about the ideas, themes and priorities discussed.

Akron Community Foundation will share a report highlighting the outcomes. The data will be part of what determines the foundation’s community investment.

The Chicago Community Trust has implemented On the Table for three years.

Akron Community Foundation was one of 10 community foundations across the nation replicating the initiative this year with funds from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.