I had the opportunity, yesterday, to address our county mayor as wells other community leaders here in Shelby County. I cannot divulge too much information at this point, but in a couple of weeks, I promise I will let you all in on everything I know.
Right now, I can share with you my Community Epidemic Speech in text only because I haven't figured out how this blog thing works in great detail!
This epidemic is not going away so quickly and is not nearly under any kind of control. Together, we can make things happen.
It's OK to get help!
"Good morning everyone,
I’d like to thank Mayor Mark Luttrell, Courtney Tipper, Cynthia Nunnely, Dr. Alisa Haushalter and all of awesome people at the Shelby County Health Department for having me here today.
I am here today to tell you that we have a problem that is adversely affecting our community.
Shelby County has been through many challenges, historically, yet we are a strong community that comes together in a time of crisis.
The opioid epidemic is killing our loved ones, but through spreading awareness, working with the legal system and access to quality treatment through community involvement, I think we can greatly reduce the number of those afflicted with the disease of addiction.
My son, Shelby, died of a heroin/fentanyl overdose on March 7, 2017. He would have turned 21 on February 9. The most horrific thing a parent could ever face is a reality for me. To channel my grief and to help others, I collaborated with my closest friends and created a website, doitforshelby.com, to raise awareness about the Opioid Epidemic, provide resources to those in need of treatment, help the homeless and help those seeking grief therapy. Shelby’s younger brother and sister, Josh and Aurora have been so patient, kind and so extremely resilient through all of this. My support system has been my faith in God, my family and close friends, mainly my husband and my mother. My goal is to bring the disease of addiction into the light and let everyone know it's ok to get help!
Here in Shelby County we have a large population who have very poor social determinates of health which affects health outcomes. The opioid epidemic is a poor health outcome. Poverty, lack of education, lack of access to quality health and mental health care only fuel the fire of addiction. Every aspect of our community: county and city government, the faith based and philanthropic communities, community leaders and members and the health care industry need to band together to help provide awareness and access to quality treatment for drug addiction regardless of socioeconomic status. The disease of addiction doesn’t know economic or social status, class, race or religion. It only knows how to steal the people we love and cherish.
People who are affected by the disease of addiction make poor choices and exhibit risky behavior, which takes it from a public health concern to a public safety concern.
Many who are incarcerated in Shelby County are there because they have made poor choices due to their drug addiction. There has been a disconnect between the legal system and dealing with health and psychosocial issues that go along with the disease of addiction. I know strides have been made but there needs to be more advocacies for incarcerated people who need drug treatment. Shelby was arrested for decisions he made while actively using. I called every phone number at 201 Poplar until someone actually listened when I told them he needed drug treatment. Unfortunately, he was very persuasive and convinced them he did not need help.
This epidemic is so scary but Fentanyl is the scariest part of it and fentanyl is definitely here in our county. It is a very potent opiate meant for pain relief in miniscule doses but is now being illegally manufactured and is being added to other drugs and being passed off as other drugs. Shelby died of an overdose that was mostly fentanyl. These drug dealers that are knowingly using fentanyl to boost their sales are murderers.
Let’s talk money. There are many residents who do not have insurance. The ones who do have insurance, the coverage for addiction treatment is minimal. There are free treatment centers for those without coverage, but there are long wait times and a lot of them are lacking in quality care.
Most insurance plans cover 30 days of treatment. 30 days is not long enough to break an addiction. It takes about a year of treatment, in patient and out patent, as well family involvement and change of environment. It takes all of this to have the best chance at recovery and staying clean and sober. That amount of therapy is very expensive. Many victims of addiction just don’t have that kind of money.
To sum it up: We need to educate our young people as well as each other on the dangers of this epidemic that is affecting our community. We need to get out there and have conversations with each other, brainstorm on answers to these challenges that we are facing. We need to get with the doctors and nurses, the EMTs, the police and fire departments and the judges and the lawyers to find out what we CAN do for our people and not be shackled by what we CAN’T do. I don’t have the magic answer, but I know that together, as a united community, we can find the answers that will help the people of Shelby County combat this horrible epidemic that has plagued our community.