Hampton hosting roundtable on opioid epidemic
A new opioid partnership has been established in Hampton Township, and it's kicking off its first roundtable summit Jan. 18 with several keynote speakers and an informative insight into this widespread epidemic.
The free event is open to the public and will begin at 7 p.m. at the township community center on McCully Road in Allison Park. It is planned to be the first of several meetings over the year, said Shari Berg, public relations consultant for Hampton Township School District.
Along with the school district, the Hampton Community Opioid Partnership is comprised of Hampton Township, the FBI's Hope Initiative, local ministerium and medical professionals from UPMC and Allegheny Health Network. The goal is to spread awareness, according to Dr. Michael Loughead, superintendent at the district.
“The opioid epidemic is a community issue, and the partnership believes in working together to combat it. Through this partnership, we are able to share different ideas and resources to benefit our community. We don't want to sweep this issue under the rug. We plan to tackle it together,” he said.
Several speakers are planned for next week's summit, including Tina Flowers, a mother of a Hampton alumnus who struggled with opioid addiction.
Dr. Gary Swanson, chairman of psychiatry residency at Allegheny General Hospital, will speak on the effects of opioid use on the brain and how to prevent misuse of opioid prescriptions. Kelly Wesolosky of the FBI Pittsburgh Community Outreach Specialist/HOPE initiative, will share regional statistics and trends.
Wesolosky said Allegheny County has one of the highest rates in the country in terms of overdose deaths. Though it seems that this topic is getting more notoriety across the nation, the situation is getting worse, she said. In Allegheny County, the number of overdoses last year so far has surpassed 650, said Keith Essig, an investigative analyst for the U.S. Attorney's office. The coroner's office predicts it may reach approximately 1,000 at final count for 2017, he said.
Specifically from 2008 to 2017, there were 29 deaths as a result of some sort of opioid and drug overdose death for residents in ZIP code of 15101, which can be attributed largely to Hampton Township and Allison Park, according to Essig. Similar numbers were found for nearby townships as well.
Wesolosky said there are no quick solutions to this epidemic. Lately they're seeing more cases of fentanyl use, which is more potent than heroin, said Wesolosky. And drugs can now be obtained more readily through the internet.
However, Wesolosky said this Hampton partnership is very unique as it brings the community members to be part of a team to get involved.
They want to encourage their audience to be part of the solution. Additional features of next week's event will include several breakout sessions including: a “preventive track” with Dr. Thomas Brophy on brain physiology and Dr. Michele Mlakar on the basics of prevention in today's culture.
And a “supportive track” session will include Dr. Gary Swanson and Dr. Gina Goszinski regarding “How to help a loved one caught in the cycle of addiction.” Also, federal law enforcement representatives will present on the topic “Now what?” which will include how to look for signs of addiction, how to help prosecute drug dealers, and what to look for (and what to avoid) in a recovery program.
Audience members will have a 15-minute period for questions after each breakout session.
The moderator and emcee will be the Rev. Dr. Ted Martin of Hampton Presbyterian Church, Berg said.
In addition to coming to the roundtable, Wesolosky said the first active step residents can do is bring in their old medicine. There will be a drug collection at the event. A hotline for feedback will be set up after the meeting.
“It takes only one person to affect the community,” she said.
Clint Hurdle, who is manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, will be providing a recorded greeting and message since he is currently in spring training in Florida, said Berg.
For details, check out the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HamptonCommunityOpioidPartnership.
Natalie Beneviat is aTribune-Review contributor.