Roundtable discussion in Alleghany County outlines impact of opioid crisis

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 11:38 PM EST
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ALLEGHANY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - The opioid crisis has impacted many across America and southwest Virginia. Cardinal News hosted a discussion Monday at the Historic Masonic Theatre in Clifton Forge, where author Beth Macy and community leaders spoke about it extensively.

“When I first started going out and talking about the opioid crisis was 2018, and I would begin by saying, I’m sorry for your loss. I would say, last year we lost 72,000 people to this. Now I say, last year, just four years later, we lost 108,000 people to drug overdose and every one of them still a tragedy,” said Macy.

Beth Macy has put a spotlight on the impact of the opioid crisis for years, first as a reporter with the Roanoke Times and now as an author of the books “Dopesick” and “Raising Lazarus.”

“The opioid crisis is festering and growing still. The numbers are going up every time they count them,” said Macy.

Macy joined Ingrid Barber, executive director of the Alleghany Highlands Community Services Board; Lee Higginbotham, CEO of LewisGale Alleghany Hospital; and Ann Gardner, Alleghany County commonwealth’s attorney and drug court advocate, for a roundtable discussion about the continued impacts and also how they are supporting people experiencing substance use disorder.

One important piece that each speaker highlighted was removing the stigma of those in need.

“We’ve been cultivated through decades of drug war thinking and drug war policies to think these people are just bad,” said Macy.

Access to resources is a crucial step forward, something being proven in Alleghany County.

“I checked our statistics from last year and there’s a 17% increase of people that we’ve seen through open access services over this time period last year. So people are coming in for treatment,” said Barber.

“The creation of a program called alto, it’s the alternatives to opioids. Some of the initial results early on in this, is we actually had 37% reduction in the use of IV and PO opioids, in our emergency departments,” said Higginbotham.

Overall it’s about making sure each and every person struggling has needed support.

“Showing some humanity as we help them in their path, hopefully in their journey to recovery,” said Higginbotham.

“We’ve got to normalize the conversations and we got to understand it as a disease and not judge people. Because if people think they’re being judged, they’re not going to seek the treatment,” said Barber.