Confronting the Opioid Crisis Head On

Posted on February 20, 2019 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

Catholic Charities Moderates Panel; Heads Up Response

Catholic Charities NY staff headed up panels focused on pressing issues of our time --  the Opioid Crisis; Immigrant, Refugee and Farmworkers and Homelessness & Housing Special Populations -- at the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators’ legislative conference held last weekend, February 15th- 17th, 2019,

This 48th Annual three-day networking event brought together influential African-American, Hispanic-American, Caribbean-American and Asian-American leaders from every corner of the Empire State.

Missed the conference and want to learn more?  Let’s hear now from Shannon Kelly about her experience moderating the Opioid Crisis panel.

Ms. Kelly heads up Catholic Charities in Orange, Sullivan and Ulster, counties that claim the unfortunate distinction as epicenter of New York State’s opioid crisis. As panel moderator, she shared lessons learned from Catholic Charities multiple innovate programs targeted to respond to this crisis.

By Shannon Kelly

Chief Operating Officer for Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster

  • How many of you know what Narcan or Naloxone is?
  • How many of you have had to use it to reverse an opioid overdose?
  • How many of you knew Catholic Charities was working with the National Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force?
  • How familiar are you with Medication Assisted Treatment?

These were just some of the questions panelists asked audience members at “The Opioid Crisis”, workshop panel I moderated last Saturday at the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators’ legislative conference.

Along with Catholic Charities’ staff working in the fields of substance abuse prevention and treatment panelists were joined Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and NYS Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services Office of Government Affairs & Policy Director Patricia Zuber-Wilson. 

Panelists shared innovative work to combat the current crisis and serve those affected

Examples include:

  • Using mobile units to engage the 9 out of 10 individuals with substance abuse disorder who are not in treatment
  • Using real-time technology to send peers and clinicians to the site of the next overdose,
  • Implementing programs to divert people from the criminal justice system with an expectation that they engage in treatment
  • Creating opioid bereavement support groups.  

All panelists seemed to share the perspective that person-centered care needs to be at the core of our efforts.

After panelists asked the audience questions, tables turned as audience members asked panelists:

  • What about people who have a mental health diagnosis in addition to their substance abuse disorder?
  • I had trouble getting someone I know into treatment. How do we improve access?
  • How do we find peer services in our area?
  • What can we do to ensure justice-involved individuals already in our jails and prison systems have access to appropriate treatment for their opiate use disorders?

It became clear from responses that there are no easy answers to these tough questions or one-size-fits-all solutions. Instead, panelists offered options tailored to respond to individual traumas described.

However, I was personally heartened by the number of people who took time out of an amazingly-packed schedule of workshops and discussions on critical issues throughout New York State to be part of a dialogue about this crisis that has hit New Yorkers so hard.

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