Seaside reaches out for community solutions

Alan Evans speaks to participants of the 2018 Opioid & Substance Use Summit at the Seaside Convention Center April 23.

Substance abuse is a deeply personal as well as a community-wide health issue. Both aspects were shared at the 2018 Opioid and Substance Use Summit at Seaside Convention Center April 23 and 24.

Sponsored by the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization, its medical director Safina Koreishi welcomed more than 250 mental, physical and behavioral health care professionals, police, social workers, educators and community members.

“Overdose deaths from opioids in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties still exceed the average for the state,” Dr. Koreishi told the attendees.

Columbia Pacific CCO, which serves the North Coast counties, has mobilized the medical, behavioral health and first-responders, as well as the community, to develop solutions. “We hope to build on our progress through collaboration and to destigmatize addiction in our communities,” Dr. Koreishi said.

Alan Evans captivated the crowd with his own story of living on the streets, being addicted to drugs and finally receiving help. This led him to create Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Centers. He started with money he saved and $1,000 in seed money from the city of Seaside. In the first six months, the program helped 230 people. Now, there are 12 facilities in six cities.

“Everyone was like myself, we just wanted the opportunity to be somebody,” Evans said. “We’ve learned to understand everyone has a story. We need to address the whole person … to understand what they’ve been through.”

Twenty-five breakout sessions covered the gamut of dealing with substance abuse disorders. Police spoke of the damage they see to families and the need for more treatment centers in the area.

Ari Wagner, director of organizational development at Greater Oregon Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., talked of treating addiction using trauma-informed care. Scientists and providers shared research on pain and pain management.

From prescribing opioids to recovery from abuse, and all aspects in between, sessions offered information and interactions aimed at addressing the substance abuse problems on the north coast.

Plenary sessions centered on the success of Medicated-Assisted Treatment. Andrew B. Mendenhall, senior medical director, substance use disorder services at Portland’s Central City Concern, said people need to change the narrative and not stigmatize medicated support.

He explained how persistent pain restructures the brain. You lose gray matter and end up experiencing more pain because of the loss of neurons. Opioids can actually make pain greater.

Use of MAT with proper counseling is often quicker and longer-lasting than many other recovery strategies, Mendenhall said.

The summit was successful in sharing ideas, networking and creating more understanding about the issues surrounding substance abuse disorders.

“I think one thing that makes the Columbia Pacific CCO Summit special is the depth and breadth of engagement from the community,” said event organizer Kelly White, transformation specialist at CareOregon.

Susan Cody is communications lead for Clatsop County’s Way to Wellville.

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