By Howard Reznick, LCSW-C
I’ve spent countless years as a therapist working with people who are dealing with chemical dependency, and have noted the various trends of drug use during that time. This current opioid epidemic is extremely alarming, hitting the community very hard and, unfortunately, taking the lives of our neighbors, friends and family members.
The statistics are staggering. Here in Maryland, the number of opioid related deaths has more than doubled in just two short years, and the numbers are even higher among women.
This is a crisis that will require everyone to work together. The governor has declared a state of emergency. State schools are mandated to provide prevention education as part of the curriculum. The face of addiction is everyone. The Jewish community is not immune. It’s no longer “those people,” it’s us.
So, what can we do? Jewish Community Services (JCS) is joining forces with Sol Levinson Bros., Inc, The Baltimore Board of Rabbis, and Myerberg Center to address this public health crisis. Confronting the Opioid Epidemic: A Free Community Forum, will take place on Tuesday, November 21 at 6:30pm at the Myerberg Center, 3101 Fallstaff Road in Baltimore.
The program will feature a keynote address from Joshua M. Sharfstein, MD, Associate Dean, Public Health Practice and Training, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Sharfstein is also the former secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Baltimore City Health Commissioner.
There will also be a panel discussion with treatment professionals and individuals whose lives have been impacted by opioid addiction. Panelists include Yngvild Olsen, MD, MPH, Medical Director, Institutes of Behavior Resources, Inc., James Ryan, Young Adult Program Director, Ashley Addiction Treatment, Steve Seidel, a pharmacist and father whose son died from an overdose, and an individual currently in recovery sharing a personal story of addiction.
In addition, attendees will receive overdose response training that includes how to administer Narcan, a medication which can reverse the effects of an overdose.
If we have any chance of turning around this disturbing trend, we all need to work together to:
- Increase awareness
- Decrease opioid abuse through education
- Be on the lookout for signs of opioid abuse in friends and family
- Remove the stigmas to seeking treatment
- Support those in recovery
Too many lives are being lost to opioid addiction. Learning how we got to this point is important, but finding initiatives and strategies to stop the epidemic is crucial.
JCS provides a broad range of services including an upcoming grief support group for parents. If your child died because of an opioid addiction, this group offers help, compassion and understanding as you cope with the unique issues and emotions that accompany your loss. The 8 week grief support group begins Thursday, December 14 at JCS in Baltimore. The group is free, but pre-registration is required. Call 410-466-9200.
Howard Reznick, LCSW-C, is manager of Prevention Education for Jewish Community Services.