York leaders to discuss opioid problem, continue conversation with book

FILE - This Aug. 15, 2017, file photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen, also known as Percocet, in New York. Health data firm IQVIA's Institute for Human Data Science released a report Thursday, April 19, 2018, showing an 8.9 percent average drop nationwide in the number of prescriptions for opioids filled in 2017 by retail and mail-order pharmacies, which fill the bulk of prescriptions. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)

As the reach of the opioid epidemic into York County communities becomes more prevalent, local leaders want to take a look at what what's being done to fight it on a local level.

"We wanted to do something that would involve the entire community," said WellSpan Health's vice president of neuroscience, Lori Clark.

"The Opioid Crisis Here at Home: The Other Side of Pain" brings together elected officials, health care representatives and addiction recovery organizations to look at the the problem from York County's perspective.

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And a summer read available at all central Pennsylvania libraries will enable the discussion to go even further.

WellSpan Health and and Pennsylvania public radio station WITF are offering a free panel discussion and book signing Monday, April 30, at Penn State York's Pullo Center to educate the public about what's going on in their backyards.

'A Summer Read': The event will kick off a series called "A Summer Read," an annual program presented by WITF's Transforming Health, Aligning Forces for Quality-South Central PA and the central Pennsylvania library systems.

Its purpose is to encourage a visit to the library to borrow the "summer read" — which this year is "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic."

"That's a fascinating read in terms of the history of how we got to this point in the opioid crisis," Clark said.

It follows two stories of drug marketing — one of a pharmaceutical corporation shopping its legal opiate painkiller as nonaddictive and the other of immigrants in a small Mexican town creating a nationwide system for the drug trade.

York County Coroner Pam Gay, speaks during a  campaign kick-off Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, at the Alert Fire Company hall in Emigsville.  Gay will be seeking re-election for a second term as coroner. Amanda J. Cain photo

Author Sam Quinones, an award-winning journalist who lived and worked as a freelance writer in Mexico for 10 years and as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times for the following decade, will sign books at 4:30 p.m. and give a keynote presentation an hour later.

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Local voices: A panel discussion with local leaders will follow at 6:30 p.m., including Kristin Varner, director of training and advocacy for the RASE Project, a nonprofit advocacy service for those seeking or in recovery; Matt Howie, medical director at the York City Bureau of Health and executive director of the York Opioid Collaborative; and York County District Attorney Dave Sunday and Coroner Pam Gay.

Dr. Matthew Howie, of the York City Bureau of Health, who oversees the York Regional Opiate Collaborative, looks on as speakers discuss the "Warm Handoff" program, which gets overdose survivors from the emergency room directly into treatment for addiction, in the Medical Education Pavilion at York Hospital in York City, Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Dr. Chris Echterling, medical director of vulnerable populations for WellSpan, will help faciliate discussions.

In his work, he deals with high-risk patients and is the lead physician advocate for everything opioid-related, including response and coordination for managing those affected.  

The public will  have the opportunity to talk to 12 organizations such as Not One More, the RASE Project and the York Opioid Collaborative before the keynote address.

Clark said learning about the organizations and having the panel discussion will make for a unique presentation that highlights all the work happening in the community. 

It's an opportunity to delve into what was learned from Quinones and also look at how the county can address issues locally in a more coordinated fashion, she said.

"We’re hoping that it will continue the discussion (of) how we can work together on this important issue," she added.

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday speaks during the press conference kickoff for the York County Reentry Coalition at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

More:Opioid treatment gap in Medicare: methadone clinics

Funding: Monday's program is funded by proceeds from the Country Club of York's Charity Classic Tennis Tournament, which last year brought in a $30,000 donation to the WellSpan York Health Foundation.

Funding was used to help increase awareness and access to alternative pain management treatment through WellSpan.

The program runs 4:30-7 p.m at the Pullo Center, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., in Spring Garden Township.

It's free and open to the public. Register by calling 717-363-8222 or visiting WellSpan.org/events and searching "opioid."

More information can be found on the event's Facebook page or at transforminghealth.org.