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Otterbein graduate Thornton ’17 works to reduce overdoses in Licking County

Otterbein graduate Thornton ’17 works to reduce overdoses in Licking County

By: Lauren Heberling ’19

There is nothing quite like landing a job after graduation, but when that job has a further reach than just your company and impacts the wellness of a whole city, it means so much more.

Ashleigh Thornton ’17 works for the Licking County Health Department in Newark, Ohio as a prescription drug overdose prevention coordinator and health educator. Licking County has been on the forefront of reducing the number of overdose deaths in the community and Thornton plays a large role in spreading the message to people of all ages.

Thornton works through a grant given by the Ohio Department of Health, which allows her to create media campaigns and programming. The goal is to reduce the number of overdose related deaths in Licking County by 20 percent by 2019. Some of her objectives include education outreach to schools and work places, helping companies implement new policies, and spreading awareness about prescription drug policies.

She also maintains an overdose and fatality review committee to keep up to date about the state of the community. She faces the challenge of an increased presence of fentanyl in the state of Ohio. 

 “People use large doses that are 1,000 times stronger than morphine, which can be deadly,” Thornton said. “That’s why it’s important to educate the public.”

The Licking County Health Department is helping the community by offering online training on how to correctly administer Naloxone, an overdoes reversal drug — giving people a second chance at life.

Her time as a public health education major and psychology minor at Otterbein prepared her for her current job. Thornton specified that her favorite and most applicable class was HLED 3500: Program Planning and Evaluation. In this class, she had hands on experience developing a program to reduce stress on campus and was able to evaluate the results of the campaign.

Thornton secured her job after her advisor told her about the opening and is happy with the start of her career.

“I realized this is one of the main epidemics in the country, but I get to work and make a positive impact in helping people affected by it and helping the community as a whole.”

Learn more about the Department of Health and Sport Sciences and the Department of Psychology.