Thursday, October 25, 2018

Someone You Know: Facing the Opioid Crisis Together

In the healthcare industry, sensitive, but critical topics arise every day. At Peirce College, our faculty and staff work with students on how to approach and manage these issues. Beyond the classroom, the best way to stay knowledgeable and timely with these delicate topics is to continuously join in on the larger conversation.

In this vein, I recently attended a national conference called, “Someone You Know: Facing the Opioid Crisis Together” hosted by the Independence Blue Cross Foundation. This conference focused on advancing, “solutions to improve the health of individuals and communities affected by the opioid crisis.” The Someone You Know Campaign concentrates on reducing the stigma of opioid misuse and inspiring hope in people seeking help with addiction and recovery.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. This event engaged leaders from the business, non-profit, public and education sectors to explore education, awareness, early intervention, the effectiveness and quality of treatment, as well as de-stigmatization and barriers to recovery. Attendees also gained educational, emotional and thought-provoking insight offered by a knowledgeable and professional panel.

One of the speakers, was Surgeon General, US Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH. Dr. Adams discussed many aspects of this crisis including the opioid landscape, the need for prevention, screening, intervention and treatment as well as the neurobiology of substance use, misuse and addiction. To learn more about the work Dr. Adams is leading, check out Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Opioids.

Attendees also heard from Philadelphia entrepreneur, Tony Luke, Jr. who shared his personal story of addiction and losing his son to an overdose. He reminded us that an addict is first a human being deeply suffering with addiction. Today, Mr. Luke advocates for education, compassion, tolerance and treatment through his #BrownAndWhite Initiative Against Heroin Abuse.

Sharmain Matlock-Turner, President & CEO, Urban Affairs Coalition and Peirce Board of Trustee member also spoke at the event and called upon attendees to continue the conversation. One way to do that is through On the Table Philly, which is a forum designed to elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships and create a unifying experience. We can also initiate a conversation on this topic in the workplace. Panelist Marci Cheesman, Sr. Business Analyst, PECO, and co-founder “Stomping the Stigma” successfully created an employee assistance group at PECO to share the loss of her son to drugs and engage and support others in active addiction or grief.

The panelists recognized the shift in how society responded to the War on Drugs as compared to the response to today's opioid epidemic. During the conference, I witnessed a call for more accurate and more compassionate language and a plea for tolerance. I heard the panelists including Dr. Joseph Garbely, DO, FASAM, Vice President and Medical Director, Caron Treatment Centers & Program Director, Caron-Reading Hospital Addiction Medicine Fellowship and Dr. Beverly Malon, PhD, RN, FAAN, CEO, National League of Nursing for Nursing advocate for education on the topic of addiction and empathy for those struggling with this chronic disease.

For me, the most profound learning I walked away with was twofold; an understanding of the widespread destruction this epidemic causes individuals, families and communities and the critical need to engage in honest, solution-oriented conversations. Will you join me in continuing the conversation?

Check back in next month to see what the Health Programs division has to share next!