Working together to fight drugs
A breakfast seminar on the opioid drug problem, hosted by the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce, was well attended Thursday morning. Chamber members and interested citizens were updated on recent efforts to stem the problem and received information on resources that are available. KATHY KUNKEL/TIMES NEWS
The Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored a breakfast seminar on opioid addiction on Thursday. Instead of focusing on who to blame for the crisis, guest speakers from St. Luke’s Miners Campus and participants focused on prevention, treatment and support.
“There is no quick fix to this complex problem,” said Micah Gursky, administrator of St. Luke’s Rural Health Clinics.
“This is a long-term issue which needs comprehensive solutions. The chamber, and its members, can help by incorporating available resources into their individual businesses, no matter how large or small.”
Rosemarie Lister, St. Luke’s community health liaison manager, shared results of a recent survey conducted with St. Luke’s community partners.
“There was a lot of valuable information collected, along with thoughts and ideas. One response in particular that will stay with me is that we all look at things through our own lens. By working together, we can look through a collective lens. That’s what we need to combat this problem, working collectively.”
St. Luke’s received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration in 2018 to focus on prevention, treatment and recovery through regional partnerships and plans.
The hospital has partnered with the Tamaqua Area and Panther Valley school districts, Head Start programs in the Tamaqua-Panther Valley area and several grassroots organizations.
“We need to continue the educational efforts, looking at prevention from the very beginning. There is also the need for more beds at the treatment level, as well as finding ways to reduce the stigma of addiction. One of our goals is to train people so they can take these tools back into their communities, workplaces, schools, civic organizations and churches,” Lister said.
Members of the audience shared their concerns, outlooks and current programs.
John Sienkiewicz of Safer Streets for Tamaqua’s Little Feet noted the group has been active “for a little over three years. Things have improved in our community, thanks to the efforts of so many groups, such as the Tamaqua Area Faith Fellowship Network, Hope and Coffee, STEP-Up and Raiders STEP-Up. We still have problems such as a lack of treatment facilities, job opportunities, treatment for mental health issues and transportation. This is especially true for those who don’t have insurance.”
Kerri Quick, St. Luke’s community health worker based in the Panther Valley School District, cautioned parents of school-age children to not take it personally if their child develops an addiction.
“You can do everything right, but that doesn’t mean you can save them from getting into trouble.”
She discussed the improvements she has seen first hand at the elementary school level and was excited to announce the creation of STEP-Up Panthers, based on the Raiders Step-Up program.
She then offered a sobering thought.
“Your children are not going to be offered drugs by some stranger on the street. The offer will be coming from someone they trust. There is still a lot of education that needs to be done at every age level.”
Gursky wanted the business owners to know there are resources available to help them incorporate addiction prevention and treatment programs.
“I heard someone say they don’t do pre-employment drug screening because, if they did, they would have no employees at all. That’s simply not true. We don’t have to lower the bar. There are numerous organizations out there that help establish policies and resource plans. Have current drug and alcohol policies in place before the situation arises. Update them as needed. St. Luke’s even screens for tobacco use as a health care concern. We can raise the bar.”
The consensus was that while there are many resources available, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“We all need to work together when it comes to prevention, treatment and recovery,” Lister said.