An hour-long discussion during WGBY’s live forum “The Opioid Crisis” touched on everything from the stigma associated with drug addiction to the life-saving measures health professionals, legislators and law enforcement in the region have put in place to prevent overdose deaths.
“As we face this opiate crisis — which is really the most significant public health issue that I believe we face — the important thing for me is that addiction impacts all aspects of society, and so, the solutions are going to come from all sectors of society,” said Dr. Robert Roose, vice president of behavioral health for Mercy Health, and a panelist on the forum.
With more than 1,400 Massachusetts residents dying of opioid-related overdoses in 2016, according to the state Department of Public Health, WGBY partnered with the Center for Human Development and the Berkshire Eagle to host a live televised event to address the issue.
“CHD came to us to ask how we could partner on this subject matter, and it is the function of public television and WGBY in this area to be the convener for important topics,” said Lynn Page, interim general manager of WGBY. ” There are so many people touched by this epidemic in one way or another and we are just allowing for that conversation and engagement to happen.”
Lois Nesci, the CEO of CHD, said opioid addiction in the region is a critical issues and a conversation that has to happen more often.
“This is a very critical issue in our community that impacts every one of our neighborhoods, every one of our towns in Western Massachusetts and around the country. We see so many people every day who have been afflicted with opioid and other substance use issues,” she said. “We hope to create more awareness and an opportunity for people to get help if they need it.”
Other panelists for the forum, held Thursday night, included Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, Chantal Silloway, adolescent recovery program director, Goodwin House, Danyel Zerella, mother in addiction recovery, Jennifer Kimball, public health program manager for the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and Liz Whynott, of Tapestry.
Audience members included local legislators, health professionals, recovering addicts and families who have been affected by addiction.
The conversation was hosted by Berkshire Eagle reporter Carrie Saldo.
“I think there were a lot of voices that got the opportunity to be heard and I think the audience brought up a wide array of challenges connected to this issue. That’s what WGBY was hoping to offer to the community, an opportunity to discuss this,” Saldo said.
Roose said he was pleased to hear that people have come to see addiction as a disease.
“People are finally seeing this as a disease and not a manifestation of poor choices,” he said. “It’s important to continue to spread the message that medication- assisted therapy is the most evidence based effective treatment that we have for opiate addiction, and to continue combating some misinformation and myths helps to reduce stigma.”
Liz Whynott, director of HIV health and prevention, who oversees needle exchange program in all four counties for Tapestry, said the forum was a good overview of the current crisis.
“It highlighted what Western Massachusetts is doing well and what we still need to do. I do wish there had been a family member to discuss the impact addiction has on them,” said Whynott, pointing out that there are programs like Learn to Cope, which work with families.
Saldo said she hopes people will continue the conversation with their family, friends and colleagues.
“An hour is not enough time, so we would encourage people to continue this discussion,” she said.
To join the discussion ,or if you missed the live forum, visit www.wgby.org.
Article by Elizabeth Roman, originally published on MassLive, on May 12, 2017. http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/05/post_905.html