A special thank you to all who attended the opioid panel discussion

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On Friday evening, March 9, Family Central held a Community Conversation on the opioid epidemic. It was the first of its kind in our community and I want to thank the Albert Wisner Public Library and Assistant Director Kathleen Georgalas for making this event possible.

This program was created to provide an opportunity for families, concerned citizens, civic leaders, clergy, town officials, school leaders, and healthcare professionals to gain an understanding of the real nature of the epidemic and what we might do collectively to strengthen our resolve to deal with it.

We were blessed with unique and highly qualified speakers who spoke to the complexity of this health issue, the impact it has on individuals, families and the overall community.

A special thank you to: The parents who shared their horrific story and their warning to other parents of how easy it is to miss the signs of heroin addiction. As a preventive measure two books were highly recommended for parents: "Tweak" by Nic Sheff and "Thin Wire" by Christine Lewry.

Matt Covell, who shared his personal story with heroin and his work with Friends of Recovery-NY, which seeks to advance public policies and practices that promote and support recovery.

Anita Volpe of St. Anthony Community Hospital and Sophie Crawford-Rosso of Bon Secours Community Hospital for their information about the hospitals' approach to helping those addicted to opioids, their New Directions treatment program and pain education policy.

Dean Scher, CEO, and Martin Colavito of Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange & Sullivan County who emphasized the power of prevention and the need for communities to work to reduce the stigma associated with the disease of addiction so more families will seek help.

Ruth Bowles, executive director of Rockland Council on Alcoholism and other Drug Dependence and Warwick resident, for stressing the importance of family support services and engagement with legislative and policy leaders to obtain the needed funding.

Lauren Savino and AnneMarie VanOrden of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Council of Orange County, for identifying prevention, education and recovery support services and where to obtain Narcan at no cost.

Anthony Curti, Assistant Orange County District Attorney, for explaining the three-prong approach (law enforcement, better education, and treatment on demand) used to deal with the drug problem, the role of the Drug Treatment Courts in helping non-violent addicted offenders and the Good Samaritan Law that allows people to call 911 without fear of arrest if they are having an overdose that requires emergency medical care or if they witness someone overdosing.

Michael Moon, Town of Warwick Police Department, for sharing his experience as a narcotics enforcement officer dealing first hand at all levels of this problem. It was heartening to hear that law enforcement’s approach is more often one of encouraging a non-violent substance abuse to get help.

Sgt. Julio Fernandez of the National Guard and Warwick Valley Prevention Coalition member, for sharing his expertise on the use of Narcan and explaining why in some cases it may be necessary to use more than one application to save a life.

Members of the audience were given the opportunity to share their concerns about the epidemic and what they’d like to see happen here in Warwick.

How to best protect our children, how to fill the gap in services for those choosing recovery and the stigma of addiction were three big concerns.

High on the list of things people want to see happen are: more information and education to help the community understand the magnitude of the problem, support groups for families affected by the disease, prevention training for parents and children and improved access to treatment.

Annie Colonna, director of the Warwick Valley Prevention Coalition, spoke about the work of the coalition, her partnership with the school district and her connection with other agencies. She conveyed her eagerness to work with others to address many of the questions and concerns raised during Friday’s panel discussion.

The Warwick Coalition meets the fourth Thursday of each month at the Warwick Valley Community Center and is in need of new members. The next meeting is scheduled for March 22 at 6:30 p.m.

For additional information, films, articles, and books about the Opioid Crisis go to the Family CentralNY (familycentralny.wordpress.com) website and click on Community Focus. Scroll down to Looking at Our Opioid Crisis to see Helpful Resources.

Beverly Braxton

Family Central

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