Editor’s note: Part two of a three part series to be published in subsequent editions of The Duncan Banner.
The public kicked-off the OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery’s seven-day long event which covered the opioid epidemic response from the public, health officials, doctors, and those who work with those affected by opioid use.
The town hall meeting consisted of a panel of six people who represented areas which see the affects first hand.
Duncan Regional Hospital (DRH) partnered with Pathways to a Healthier You to bring the event to Stephens County.
The moderator for the evening was Dr. Jason Beaman, Assistant Clinical Professor, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences for OSU.
On the panel were: Dr. Dan Criswell, DRH Addiction Medicine, Family Medicine; Jackie Shipp, Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services senior director; Louann Wiseman, Celebrate Recovery; Jason Hicks, 6th District Attorney; Mendy Spohn, regional director for Oklahoma Department of Health and John Scott, Oklahoma Drug Enforcement Administration.
Beaman wanted to know what each of these departments need in Duncan and Stephens County and Oklahoma at large to help people conquer their opioid use disorder and lower the overdose rate.
Criswell said they were already taking the first step to helping the community.
“The first thing that needs to happen is exactly what we are doing here, and that is saying, realizing, we have a problem, because until we identify this as being a community problem,” he said. “Meeting together like this is a step of where we need to be going as far as our community and addressing this.”
Criswell’s other main message was gaining understanding to destigmatize addiction.
“Addiction has always been regarded as just a ‘moral failing.’ Somebody’s not trying hard enough, they’re just ‘bad’ people, ‘oh it’s just runs in their family,’” he said. “If we can just begin to realize that this does show as behaviors but that the behaviors are driven by disease. Addiction is chronic brain disease that is treatable. If we can see there is hope in addressing this — we are going to make it.”
Wiseman said the other biggest huddle was just the lack of services.
“The problem is we don’t have enough metal health services in this part of the state,” she said. “We really need more intensive out-patient services, we are really desperate there. We need people to realize that from a Celebrate Recovery point of view that people need to heal from their past, whatever it was that lead them to destructive behavior and that’s going to bring long-term sobriety.”
Wiseman said she didn’t know about Criswell but was excited to have a new resource.
“It’s so huge that it’s overwhelming and I don’t even know for sure how we get started, this has got to be the start right here is making people aware and all of us looking and working together to help people.”
Beaman also piggy backed on Wiseman.
“I do want to highlight that there are really very, very few addiction medicine doctors in Oklahoma. I think the City of Duncan is blessed to have a board certified addiction doctor so you know at least the addiction treatment you are getting is evidence-based and that it is high quality,” he said. “Most of the towns in Oklahoma don’t have that level of expertise.”
Hicks agreed with Wiseman and other’s on the panel.
“I’m going to echo what Louann (Wisemen) just said — we need services in Stephens County,” Hicks said. “I hear it every time I am up at the Capitol. I get asked ‘Why are you incarcerating people with some type of an addiction issue?’ It’s because we don’t have the services in the rural parts of the State of the Oklahoma. Oklahoma County has them, Tulsa County has them — we don’t have those options and quite frankly, it’s not fair to the people here who have these issues — for us not to have those services.”
Hicks also agreed with Scott about education for young people as opioids are pills prescribed for a reason and aren’t “tic-tacs.”
Hicks also shared that a few years ago two trials were taking place, both for distribution one for meth and one for Loratabs. The meth dealer got 40 years and the other received two years.
“There is a real problem and misunderstanding in the community. I would say this is across the state of Oklahoma that those things are dangerous and they will kill you just as quickly,” he said. “We see more opioid overdoses than we do meth overdoses. It’s just as dangerous if it’s not done properly.”
Beaman was quick to praise the area for it’s work despite the lack of resources.
“I think that… Stephens and Jefferson counties recognize that there is a prescription problem which puts them ahead of a lot of other rural areas in Oklahoma,” he said. “There’s a very strong collation with Pathways and the hospital, to fight that. So I think you guys are very far ahead and have some really good blessings and foundations to build on.”