Three members of the Southern Illinois Substance Abuse Alliance were among the 150-plus in attendance for the Opioid Crisis Next Door conference, "It's Everybody's Business," held June 24 at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation in Springfield.
Attending were Mariah Bargman, community relations coordinator/marketing for Memorial Hospital Chester; Joann Emge, CEO, Sparta Community Hospital; and Shea Haury, executive director of the Human Services Center.
The Opioid Crisis Next Door conferences were organized to increase awareness of the rapidly growing problem of opioid and heroin use in rural communities and the lack of community response. Together, the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services, the Illinois Department of Public Health, Center for Rural Health, the Critical Access Hospital Network and SIU Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development worked jointly to bring the health care community, local organizations, and teams of concerned citizens together to assist in the fight.
"Since June 2016, we've made it our mission to bring local coalitions, schools, health departments, law enforcement, health care providers, and other community stakeholders together in an effort to combat opioid misuse, heroin use, and other substance use disorders," said Pat Schou, executive director of ICAHN. "Today, we are happy to showcase many new and veteran coalitions that are helping others join the effort.
"We also had the opportunity to show firsthand the impact our teamwork has had on Illinois' rural communities and what medical practitioners can do to assist with addition and harm reduction when it comes to opioid misuse."
Among the day's presenters were Tony Hoffman, a former professional BMX racer and 2016 Rio Olympics Games BMX coach, who is personally in long-term recovery; Dan Zsido, a retired lieutenant with the Pinellas County (Florida) Sheriff's Department and the Central Florida Narcotics Division; and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Schou told her audience their job is to keep momentum alive in their own communities.
"We need you to contact your legislators and keep this issue in the forefront," she said. "We continue to seek funding for local treatment centers in rural America, and we can only accomplish this by working together."
• Those interested in more information or in joining a coalition should contact Pat Schou at firstname.lastname@example.org or (815) 875-2999.