WESTERLY — The Westerly Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force will host a forum on opioid prevention and abuse Thursday at Ocean Community YMCA.
The event, which will start at 6 p.m. with a resource fair followed by a 90 minute program and then a question and answer session, is intended to increase awareness, teach about opioid addiction, provide resources, help tear down the stigma associated with opioid abuse and addiction, and prevent overdose deaths, organizers said.
“One of the things that has become more apparent as more news covers the volume of this epidemic and its reach is there really is no face to opioid addiction. There is no race and no socio-economic profile. There are no real indicators of which person will suffer from this disease and which won’t,” said Sarah Hall, the task force’s paid coordinator.
A community discussion about the ravages of opioid addiction can help reduce the stigma and “can be a really important step in giving people the space to get treatment,” Hall said.
The panel speakers will include Dr. Deidre Cronin, an emergency department physician at L+M Hospital in New London and Alisha Choquette, a licensed chemical dependency counselor. The names of other participants were not available but the panel is expected to also include a recovering addict, an addict’s family member, and an expert on medication-assisted recovery.
“Hopefully this will be a good resource to people who come either just because they are curious or because they have family members or friends in need or they themselves are seeking such resources,” Hall said.
The forum is being funded through a $4,900 mini-grant from the state Department of Health. The grant is also being used to support the services of a certified peer recovery coach who works with overdose victims and their families. The coach also targets those at hight risk of overdose such as those in mediation assisted recovery or those who have received hospital services due to substance abuse.
The grant allows the task force to address the opioid epidemic for the first time. Its other grants restrict efforts to alcohol, marijuana and tobacco abuse prevention by 12- to 17-year-olds.
The task force is studying a possible summer prevention program for young people and working on building relationships with other providers in the community.