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Editorial: Opioid fight is for everyone

Raising awareness of Rowan County’s opioid epidemic and finding solutions is a mission for the entire community.

Not just law enforcement. Not just health-care workers. Not just the addicts and families dealing with the crisis first-hand.

The public will get a chance to plug in next month at the Second Annual Opioid Forum, set May 15 at West End Plaza. The keynote speaker will be Sam Quinones, author of the eye-opening book, “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.”

The forum offers hope to addicts and the community at large. Quinones’ book describes both the scourge of addiction as well as programs that some communities have used to get addicts on the road to recovery. That’s still an urgent need.

Concern in Rowan seems to have ebbed since last year’s rash of heroin and fentanyl overdoses; on the surface the situation appears to have stabilized. The threat continues, however. Suspected opioid overdoses treated at N.C. emergency rooms have increased at a more rapid rate than the rest of the Southeast — more than double that of the region, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

The May 15 forum, which will run 3-9 p.m., is open to the public. In addition to a presentation by Quinones, the event includes a panel of experts on addiction and substance abuse, speakers who have been personally affected by the opioid epidemic, county officials sharing updates on Rowan’s situation, and resources and opportunities for mental health assistance.  Quinones will speak at 7 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer period.

(To make a reservation before the May 1 deadline, go to http://rowanopioidforum02.ezregister.com. Snacks and dinner are provided.)

Sponsors include Rowan County government, the Charlotte-based Center for Community Services and Youth Substance Use Prevention Rowan.

 Also on the sponsors list is Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, the mental health entity that has had an oddly low profile in the quest for solutions to the opioid crisis. Let’s hope this signals more involvement from the agency here in Rowan County, which desperately needs more treatment options — and more affordable ones — for people trying to break free of addiction.

The scope of the opioid problem can be overwhelming, but solutions are out there, and a forum that includes the public could create new momentum. A quote from Quinones’ book points the way. “I believe more strongly than ever that the antidote to heroin is community,” he says. This community is ready to act.

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