By Randy Ludlow
Perhaps someone out there has an idea that could help end the "dark journey" traveled by Jacqueline Lewis and her heroin-addicted adult son.
He's lapsed in and out of treatment for years, regularly returning to satisfy the desperate desire for an opioid high.
Meanwhile, his mother is caring for his two-year-old daughter, who became addicted in the womb due to her mother's drug use.
"I can't fix it. I feel helpless," said Lewis, a 62-year-old from Columbus. "They need help -- the right help and they need it now."
The state is offering money to attract ideas, be they from average citizens or experts, to help stem an addiction crisis that claimed 4,050 lives in Ohio last year.
The Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge now is accepting proposals at to identify technology that holds the promise of treating pain without painkillers and diagnosing, treating and preventing abuse and overdoses.
More than $6.5 million will be spent on the "idea" phase of the overall $20 million state program initiated by Gov. John Kasich from Third Frontier dollars generated by a voter-approved bond issue.
"Whether you're a medical or health care expert, or simply a concerned citizen, we are calling on everyone to be part of the solution," David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency and chairman of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission, said Wednesday. "The answer may come from anywhere."
Five of the most-promising ideas will be awarded $10,000 each, making them eligible later for grants of hundreds of thousands of dollars to advance "technical solutions" in tacking opioid addiction. The final stage in 2019 will develop the ideas into products for use in the marketplace to fight drug abuse.
Forty runners-up, 20 from among average citizens and 20 for professionals and experts, will be awarded $500 each in a random drawing. Proposals are due by Dec. 15.
Meanwhile, more than 40 universities, hospitals, medical companies and others have submitted letters of intent in hopes of capturing a share of $12 million in state grants to commercialize their proposals nearing completion. Third-party evaluators are expected to recommend in December which proposals get funding.
The ideas range from wearable monitors to detect opioid abuse, development of new non-opioid painkillers, implantable devices that would block pain and a massage therapy glove to relieve muscle pain.
Jacqueline Lewis would welcome any idea, any help, from any quarter.
Her 29-year-old son's heroin addiction grew out of painkillers prescribed to help deal with his curved spine. He was turned away at one treatment center for lacking health insurance. She has found him, more than once, barely breathing, thinking he was dead.
"I've found myself in a journey I never wanted," she said. "The shame. I hid this for so long ... this is a disease. It's not really a choice to them."

(c)2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)