Substance use education forum for community, faith groups set for February
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Iredell County’s substance use statistics are unsettling.
In 2017, 550 people presented at the three Iredell County emergency rooms with Illegal drug or prescription medication overdoses, while another 256 suffered an unintentional overdose.
Opioid overdoses sent 113 people to the hospital, and 74 more suffered heroin overdoses.
These numbers do not include the significant number of substance users who refuse to seek hospital treatment after receiving Narcan, a prescription medicine used for the treatment of an opioid overdose, from county emergency medical services, law enforcement officers, or friends or family members. Efforts are underway to start collecting data on these occurrences as well.
Only 34 percent of these overdoses occurred in patients age 24 or younger. A shocking 41 percent occurred in the 45 and over age group. Those in the 25 to 44 age group accounted for 48 percent of overdose deaths in the county, with another 40 percent in people 45 and over. Overdoses occurred equally in both males and females.
In 2016, a startling 12 million opioid pills were prescribed in Iredell County for 44,703 patients, enough for 71 pills for every man, woman, and child in Iredell County.
To confront this epidemic, organizers of the Substance Use Education, Engagement, & Empowerment Forum will seek to educate, engage and empower the faith community and community members about substance use issues. The forum is scheduled for Saturday, February 17, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Williamson's Chapel United Methodist Church in Mooresville.
The forum is particularly targeting faith-based groups and organizations to increase awareness of the addiction crisis and to provide the tools and information to help community members with addiction find the counseling and services they need to achieve recovery.
Featured speakers include North Carolina State Health Director Dr. Betsy Tilson, nationally recognized addiction psychiatrist Dr. Omar Manejwala, and local community members and leaders, law enforcement officers, and substance use professionals.
Dr. Manejwala, who will speak on the stigma associated with addiction, has appeared on national and international television networks and radio programs as well as in print media to inform audiences how to utilize brain and behavior science advancements to change patients’ habits and lives. He also works to reduce the stigma associatedwith addiction and mental health issues, which often prevents those in need of help from seeking it.
Tilson will speak on state and community efforts to confront the opioid crisis. Other speakers will address evidence-based prevention programs available to the community, treatment and recovery programs, and volunteer opportunities.
Dan Miglin of the Mooresville Police Department, Dr. Gary West of Fifth Street Ministries, and Reverend Jan Brittain of Williamson Chapel Methodist Church will also speak on the urgent need for community action to confront the addiction crisis facing people of all ages and backgrounds in Iredell County.
The Iredell County Sheriff’s Office mobile classroom will also be present for attendees to get additional information.
Registration, with a coffee and bagel breakfast, begins at 7:30 am. The forum will start promptly at 8 a.m. A box lunch will also be provided. No continuing education credits will be offered, but participants will receive a certificate of attendance.
The free event is sponsored by the Drug-Alcohol Abuse Free Iredell (DAFI) coalition, Partners Behavioral Healthcare, and the Iredell County Health Department.
Those interested can register at Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/substance-use-education-engagement-empowerment-forum-tickets-41242173451.
Please contact DAFI’s Jill St.Clair at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-881-3450 for answers to any additional questions or to relay dietary restrictions on lunches.