Come Together for Change event addresses opioid addiction crisis

To try to prevent more deaths -- some agencies have been talking to middle and high school students about the problem.

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - More than a dozen agencies came to the Gateway Center on Wednesday to try to tackle the opioid addiction crisis in the Metro East.

The United States Attorney's Office Southern District of Illinois and the Partnership for Drug Free Communities hosted the Come Together for Change event. Participants viewed Chasing the Dragon and listened to a panel discussion. Dr. Bob Twillman from the Academy of Integrative Pain Management was the keynote speaker.

Those involved with the event say the opioid epidemic is a complex problem, and they need to work together to come up with complex solutions.

Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn says have been 43 overdose deaths this year; 21 of which were heroin overdoses. Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons says 80 percent of heroin addicts report that they began by taking opiate based pain killers.

To try to prevent more deaths, some agencies have been talking to middle and high school students about the problem. Others have been trying to get doctors to stop prescribing opiate pills and offer alternative therapies instead. Some agencies have gotten grants to buy Narcan, which helps revive a person who may be overdosing.

However, they say even more needs to be done and they can't do it alone.

"The three components of the DOJ's strategy on this are prevention on the front end, enforcement in the middle, and treatment at the back," said Don Boyce, U.S. Attorney for Southern Illinois. "We have all of those components represented here today. Everybody here locally is working towards the same goal and through this sort of cooperation, we're hopeful."

"Often, we may need to refer out to another type of organization for residential treatment or detox or something that we may not necessarily have available right there at Chestnut so it's great for all of us to get together and collaborate and identify what we can do to help treat everybody as quickly as we need to," said Brent Cummins, director of adult addiction treatment and recovery support at Chestnut Health Systems.


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