“It’s just very important for us to understand what it is you’re dealing with, how this legislation can be helpful or what else needs to be done to make sure that we can get on top of this real problem that’s plaguing our community,” Ryan said.
A variety of people attended the discussion from law enforcement to community activists and even recovering addicts.
Rick Barney was one of the participants. He used to be a doctor but then became addicted to pain pills after having surgery. He offered a unique perspective for the group as both a doctor and an addict.
He said his main takeaway from the roundtable was the need for people within the community to work together to come up with a solution.
“As we start to learn on what helps, that information needs to get back to Washington,” he said. “And other places that are trying things around the country that works, we need to learn about that so we can bring it here.”
He said he felt like Ryan heard what the group had to say took it seriously.
“He gets it. I like the fact that our speaker in Congress understands the gravity of the situation,” Barney said. “They’re being careful in how they approach this, which slows it down, but over time is going to make it much more effective.”
Erin Loveland also attended the roundtable discussion. She’s the director of Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change, a group focused on preventing and reducing substance abuse among youth. She said the conversation gave her a new perspective on how to approach the problem.
“The heroin epidemic is something we need to look at from many different angles,” she said. “We were able to see it from many different perspectives, which I don’t know that we always cover all of that when we’re sitting down and meeting together as separate groups.”
There were 33 overdose deaths in Rock County in 2016, and 12 in Janesville alone. This year, Loveland said, there have already been seven overdose deaths in Janesville and fentanyl was involved in nearly all the cases.
“So it’s going beyond the problem of opioids now, or at least the regular heroin that we had been seeing, and it’s becoming an even bigger problem where people are turning to drugs that are much stronger to give them what they feel they need,” she said.
The discussion made Loveland realize the need for more overdose prevention training in the community. This is an opportunity for people to learn how to spot the signs of an overdose and administer Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose. Participants can also take a free dose home after the training. A woman who attended the training in June ended up saving an overdosing stranger’s life just days after she learned how to administer Narcan.
“The only thing stronger than fear is hope, and we need to have hope so we can get through this,” Loveland said. “It is a massive national problem. We have almost 60,000 people dying every year from heroin.”
The next overdose prevention training is scheduled for Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. at the Hedberg Public Library in Janesville.
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