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Opioid addiction has no boundaries or limits

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Photo by Kelly White

The Oak Lawn Public Library hosted a program called “The Opioid Crisis: From the Experts” with panelists (from left) Diana Bottari, DO, FAAP, chair of Advocate Health Care’s Opioid Task Force, division head pediatric sedation and medical director pediatric pain management; Sharon Januszewski, bureau chief of emergency medical services at the Oak Lawn Fire Department; Kim M. Miller, PsyD, director of Advocate Trauma Recovery Center, licensed clinical psychologist; Jackie Rouse, MHA, DrPH, director of community health/community health workers at Advocate Aurora Health-South Chicagoland Region; and Melissa Schumacher, a social worker at Oak Lawn Community High School.

By Kelly White

Opioid addiction is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare.

Opioids are highly addictive and include prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic alternatives like fentanyl. Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to opioid addiction,” said Kevin Korst, Oak Lawn Public Library’s local history coordinator.

For many people who know or love someone with an opioid addiction, the statistics hit close to home. In an effort to assist in understanding the opioid crisis and how it is affecting local communities, the Oak Lawn Public Library is offering a program called, “The Opioid Crisis: Understanding the Epidemic.” The program is broken down into a series continuing throughout the month of October that began on Sunday, Sept. 29 with “The Opioid Crisis: From the Experts.” The entire program is free and open to the public at the library, 9427 Raymond Ave.

A seminar on avoiding overdose called, “Naloxone Training” will be taking place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8. This will pave the way for a discussion of Beth Macy’s novel, “Dopesick” which will be taking place at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, followed by a film screening of “Ben is Back” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16. The program will conclude on Sunday, Oct. 20 with personal stories of opioid addiction at 2 p.m.

“Through this program, we are recognizing the enormity and complexity of the problem,” said Jim Dieters, director of the Oak Lawn Library.

“Our hope with this program is to bring experts together with the Oak Lawn community so individuals can get a better understanding of the crisis, how it is impacting Oak Lawn, and how each of us can take steps to end the crisis,” said Meghan Moran, interlibrary loan coordinator at the Oak Lawn Library.

Sunday’s presentation gathered together experts from the Oak Lawn community to help attendees understand what exactly the opioid crisis is, why it has escalated, and how to be a part of the solution.

“We looked to individuals in the community who specifically work with or near individuals who are experiencing opioid use disorder,” Moran said.

Those experts included: Diana Bottari, DO, FAAP, chair of Advocate Health Care’s Opioid Task Force, Division head of pediatric sedation and medical director of pediatric pain management; Kim M. Miller, PsyD, director of Advocate Trauma Recovery Center, licensed clinical psychologist; Sharon Januszewski, bureau chief of emergency medical services at the Oak Lawn Fire Department; Jackie Rouse, MHA, DrPH, director, Community Health/Community Health Workers at Advocate Aurora Health-South Chicagoland Region; and Melissa Schumacher, a social worker at Oak Lawn Community High School.

Januszewski said the opioid epidemic is not limited to any race, age group, or gender.

“It’s a problem that is in the Oak Lawn community,” Januszewski said. “A lot of times, members of the Oak Lawn Fire Department are the first people that a user might open up to. We are there to listen and to get them the help that they need.”

In 2016, the Oak Lawn Fire Department was called out for 64 overdose cases of opioid use in the Oak Lawn area. The department has responded to 77 calls in 2018 and 56 calls as of September 2019.

“I have noticed there has been an increase in opioid use both personally and professionally,” said Schumacher.

Opioid use often begins at home in what may seem like harmless situations, panelists said.

“Opioids are often medication that users have been given by their own doctors,” said Miller. “In cases like this, it is hard to recognize addiction, especially when you see an issue and the user does not.”

“One way to help at home is to clean out your own medicine cabinet,” said Bottari. “Get rid of what you’re not using. If it’s not there, they can’t use it.”

Panelists also stressed the strong correlation between mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, and addiction.

“Undiagnosed behavior health issues can lead to drug use,” Bottari said. “Addiction is not a choice. It is important to remain non-judgmental for anyone who is looking to seek treatment for addiction or for any underlying mental health issues.”

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