Annual opioid conference focuses on prevention, youth
Nov 4, 2019
By Isabel Braverman - staff writer
By: ISABEL BRAVERMAN | DEMOCRAT
Several hundred professionals and leaders from around the region listened to experts provide ideas to continue combating the drug abuse in our communities at the annual Opioid Prevention Conference held at New Hope Community in Loch Sheldrake on Friday.
LOCH SHELDRAKE — Education continues to play a key role in combating the opioid crisis. Since 2015, Sullivan County Public Health Services has hosted an annual Opioid Prevention Conference, and last Friday's theme was youth prevention and education.
Recent events only underscore the importance of such a dialogue. The Democrat reported on October 29 that there were seven overdose deaths in Sullivan County that month, two of them occurring on the same day.
Held at New Hope Community, the conference focused on HOPE: Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Education. Hundreds of attendees came out to the conference, including community leaders and healthcare professionals from around the region.
“We hope that each person who attends today will be better informed and educated about the complex issues relative to the opioid epidemic that is impacting our communities,” said Public Health Director Nancy McGraw. “Research has shown that addressing the opioid crisis requires a range of approaches to address its multiple causes and consequences.”
There were many keynote speakers throughout the day presenting on topics ranging from opioid addiction in pregnancy, infant health and the impact on early childhood education.
The first speaker, Dr. Kelly Ramsey, gave an informative and enlightening talk on the stigma and misconceptions surrounding opioid use disorder, which is a chronic disease and should be treated chronically (as in long-term treatment, just like other chronic diseases such as diabetes).
Ramsey has worked at Hudson River Healthcare as the Medical Director of Substance Use Disorders since 2011. She advocates for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies for the treatment of substance use disorders.
She told the audience that people who use drugs should be treated with respect and empathy. While someone might not be ready for counseling, doctors can reduce harm by prescribing methadone and buprenorphine, as well as Narcan.
Ramsey said patients should be on these medications for as long as needed. “It is different for every patient, but recidivism rates and mortality are higher for shorter courses of treatment and for no treatment,” she said.
She also noted that addiction affects everybody, and over the past few years it has increased in all categories: race, age, income bracket, etc.
The conference also included a breakfast and lunch, networking opportunities and vendor fair.
“This year's conference focused primarily on youth and prevention, reducing the stigma of substance use, and the impact that the opioid crisis has had on families, schools, and communities,” McGraw said. “Sullivan County Public Health Services has sponsored an annual conference focusing on health issues in Sullivan County, educating both professionals and the public about best practices in intervening in the opioid crisis.”