Horizon hosts panel discussion on opioid crisis, community leaders weigh in

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) The opioid crisis continues to affect more and more lives across Virginia and our hometowns are not immune. Tonight, Lynchburg officials shared how they're seeing this crisis right here at home.

Horizon Behavioral Health hosted a panel with professionals from workforce development, city schools, police and firefighters. They all say opioid use and the effects continue to rise.

Over 100 people were packed into a room at Horizon Behavioral Health on Old Forest Road. They looked at images of what an opioid addiction looked like in the 1800's. They didn't need a slide show presentation of what it looks like today.

It looks like Patrick O’Toole, dead at 31.

“He broke his neck and he was prescribed prescription pain medication,” said Mary Anne Poling, O’Toole’s sister.

It looks like Brian McBride.

“I was homeless, penniless, jobless,” said McBride.

“Across the United States we've seen a market increase in opioid use disorder, opioid misuse and opioid overdose,” said Mishka Terplan, Associate Director of Addiction Medicine at VCU.

The Lynchburg area has felt that increase as well.

“In 2017 we responded to a little over 90 overdoses,” said Greg Wormser, Acting Fire Chief for the City of Lynchburg.

Lynchburg Police started tracking overdoses last February, seeing 41 prescription overdoses and 23 heroin.

“This is not a choice that somebody made,” said Terplan.

That's something Poling wishes she could have realized earlier.

“I would tell him I'm really sorry for being so mad at him all the time,” said Poling.

Thursday night, graphs of the crisis were displayed. All of the lines were going up. A magic bullet solution is not realistic. But it's sharing stories like O'Toole's or McBride's, hearing the data, and talking about it that they're hoping is a step.

“We all have to take care of each other. And we all have to work collaboratively to ensure we can help all of those citizens who need our assistance,” said Wormser.

Terplan wanted to make it clear to everyone that addiction is an illness and recovery works. Horizon Behavioral Health provides treatment for people struggling with substance abuse.