SAN DIEGO–Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP) Public Policy Committee Thursday hosted it’s first Community Conversation of the Year: The Opioid Crisis – Solutions for San Diego at the 2-1-1 Connections Center in San Diego.
The event, co-sponsored by Vista Hill and the San Diego Rx Drug Abuse Task Force (SDPDATF) included local data, comparative trends, community strategies for control and prevention; and a call to action for opioid control.
Attendees included decision makers, local community advocates, and health professionals. Panelists included Sayone Thihalolipavan, M.D., Deputy Public Health Officer, Health and Human Services Agency, County of San Diego; Cindy Cipriani, Senior Management Counsel & Outreach Director, Office of the U.S. Attorney; Linda Bridgeman-Smith, Health and Human Services Agency, County of San Diego; Robert Harkins, Group Supervisor, Tactical Diversion Squad, Drug Enforcement Agency – San Diego and Katie Hirst, M.D., Private Practice, Mindfulness Meditation, Substance Use Disorders and Women’s Reproductive Mental Health in Encinitas.
Both federal and local experts provided insight into stemming the tide from this crippling addiction.
“Federal authorities are using every tool to combat the opioid epidemic. Agencies are engaging international officials to ban shipments of precursor chemicals, seizing illegal opiates, taking down trafficking networks, and targeting doctors and pharmacists who abuse their positions of trust,” stated Cindy Cipriani, SDPDATF Co-Chair and Senior Management Counsel to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. “We are committed to working closely with stakeholders across multiple disciplines to address every aspect of this public safety problem.”
“DEA recognizes the threat these dangerous drugs pose to our communities”, said DEA San Diego Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Woodland. “DEA will continue to investigate and arrest registrants who are diverting prescription drugs from legal use, arrest drug traffickers who are selling this poison on our streets, and educate the citizens of San Diego County about the consequences of drug abuse.”
Closing out the panel, Katie Hirst, M.D. shared a very personal experience – her own.
“My addiction started when I took opioids after two C-sections and within a few years I was in the grip of the disease. The shame of opioid addiction kept me from seeking appropriate treatment, even though I was providing that same treatment to my patients. My recovery has meant re-evaluating my entire life balance, placing my physical and emotional health and care above all else before beginning to take care of others.”
Moderator Robert Dean, CEO at Vista Hill stated, “today’s perspectives speak to the importance of combined coordinated efforts of federal and local regulation, prosecution, law enforcement, prevention and treatment.” Following the panel, attendees were treated to a robust question and answer session and connected with local prevention coalitions to strategize community response.