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The Community Member’s Role in Addressing the Opioid Crisis


 3 troubling trends seen in the
community since 2016

By Eugenia Jones

Fifty-six interested individuals recently attended a workshop about “The Community Member’s Role in Addressing the Opioid Crisis” hosted by the McCreary County Extension Agency at the McCreary County Senior Citizen’s building in Whitley City.
Speaker Sherri Estes, Adanta Regional Prevention Center, provided a broad overview of the current status of the opioid epidemic in Kentucky in which she defined opioids and opiates and reviewed strategies and resources available to prevent overdoses. She also provided information about naloxone-a narcotic block used to treat opioid overdoses.
Alex Elswick, Extension Associate for Family Resource Management for University of KY, shared current research examining the causes of addiction including the roles played by genetics and environment. He also shared slides illustrating changes that occur in the brains of addicts including decreases in dopamine-a neurotransmitter controlling the body’s reward and pleasure center. Noting the importance of finding ways to help addicts reach the five year point of sobriety, Elswick said relapses are much less likely to occur after the fifth year of sobriety. He emphasized the importance of providing personal, social, and community support for addicts, particularly during the first five years of sobriety.
Locally, McCreary County Sheriff Randy Waters, State Representative Ken Upchurch, and Department of Community Based Services Supervisor Tanya Phillips provided a community perspective on the local opioid crisis.
In her role as a supervisor for Community Based Services, Phillips discussed three troubling trends she has seen in the community since 2016.
First, she noted McCreary County has begun to be a county where most reports to her office center around drug/needle abuse. Next, Phillips discussed the rise in the number of local babies born with substance abuse, and observed that her office recently received nine reports of babies born with substance abuse in a month. Finally, Phillips noted an increase in the number of girls, ages fourteen and up, who are using drugs intravenously. Phillips spoke emotionally urging those present at the meeting to not be afraid to have hard conversations with loved ones who are abusing. She urged those present to have hard conversations, leave the door open, and talk about the potential for relapse and plan for relapse if it occurs.
Pastors Mike Raftery and Grant Hasty spoke about community support and resources for recovering addicts. Roger Owens, representing UNITE and Champions Against Drugs, shared information about services offered through those programs, including free drug testing kits available for parents who want to monitor their own children.
McCreary County Extension Agent Greg Whitis expressed his pleasure with the outcome of the meeting and with the large number of individuals who attended.
“Afterwards, people repeatedly remarked that we’ve got to have more meetings like this to address the issue,” Whitis commented. “Folks also wanted to know what’s next or where we can go from here. I’m very pleased with the response of the community. We’ve got a lot of people in our community who truly want to help fix this problem.”

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