Addiction Discussion Dinner Prompts Community to Engage in Opioid Epidemic Battle

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In conjunction with the USU Eastern Bread ‘N Soup Night, an Addiction Discussion Dinner was hosted in the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center on the college’s campus Monday evening. This discussion dinner followed on the heels of a Health, Extension, Advocacy, Research and Teaching (HEART) Coalition meeting that had taken place earlier that morning.

During this dinner, a panel gathered to answer the community’s questions and discuss their plans to thwart the ongoing opioid epidemic. On this panel were representatives from the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments (SEUALG), C.A.R.E Coalition, Four Corners Behavioral Health, USU Extension, the HEART Initiative, Southeastern Utah Health Department, One Voice Recovery, CRAFT Family Support Group and an internal medicine and addiction physician, who was also a professor at the University of Utah.

Following introductions from these representatives, the community question portion of the evening was fully opened. Danielle Pendergrass with Eastern Utah Women’s Health led the event at the microphone as she wandered the crowd to assist those who wished to ask questions.

Community members asked the panel if they were working both with local doctors, pharmacists and local law enforcement. Those on the panel assured the crowd that all entities are being worked with currently.

A program through the pharmacy was then discussed that made serious changes through legislation and assists doctors in checking when patients last filled an opioid prescription in real-time. Debbie Marvidikis with the health department stated that this takes a burden from the physicians who may assign a proxy to code the information.

One citizen then questioned what services were available for those that already have an addiction, stating that much of the effort seems to be preventative. Many on the panel stressed the utmost importance of ending the shame and the stigma surrounding addiction in order for those that are battling a problem to have the confidence to step forward and request the help they need.

Treatment in one’s hometown is rarely the wish for those that are beginning recovery, it was explained. Karen Dolan of Four Corners stated that though there is not a rehab in the area, a rehab is not the only way to treat addiction. In Price, an opioid treatment program was just opened that sees nearly 45 people a day. Dolan also stated that there is a big push for primary doctors to take care of addiction as a treatable illness and send people to appropriate avenues.

“The thing is, 28 days doesn’t cure addiction; it helps, it’s something,” Dolan stated.

The panel was then asked what exactly the community can do for involvement and support. The community was urged to step forward if an issue in the community, through healthcare or otherwise, is spotted. Continuing to attend meetings and assist to find the gaps in the program was also stressed. Finally, and once again, the community was asked to work to end the stigma surrounding addiction.

The children that are affected by the opioid epidemic were also discussed, as well as strengthening families through support and without judgment. At the conclusion of the evening, a survey was given to all those in attendance with questions regarding how the evening went, if the crowd would recommend it, how engaging the presenters were and the like.

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