Collaboration is key in fighting the opioid epidemic.
That will be a focus Friday of the Opioid Action Summit, which will explore solutions and actions in response to the opioid epidemic. The Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health, Healthy Living Collaborative and Initiative for Public Deliberation at Washington State University are organizing sponsors.
The summit will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Firstenburg Community Center in Vancouver, and about 120 people are expected to attend, including elected officials, community members personally affected by the epidemic and local organizations involved in the response.
Nationwide, nearly 48,000 people overdosed on opioids last year. In Clark County, 39 people died as a result of opioid overdose, and 732 deaths occurred statewide.
There was also a summit in May around changing the conversation around opioid use disorder treatment and discussing it as a brain disease. The summits are viewed as a opportunity to connect and spark collaboration.
“The main opportunity here is to really channel all of these people who are doing all of this work around response into a collective impact approach,” said Eric McNair-Scott, director of community-clinical linkages at SWACH. “Everyone is doing great work. How do we really parlay that into something that has a bigger impact through collaboration, partnership and raising awareness of what is out there and connecting the dots? That’s how we get the greatest response and the greatest engagement.”
The summit will include speakers, and then an opportunity to network and learn about what community organizations are doing. Some of the speakers will talk about their personal connections to the opioid epidemic.
Kachina Inman, the executive director of the Healthy Living Collaborative, said that sharing these intimate experiences can help the message land.
“Folks who have been most impacted are a critical part of the solution,” Inman said. “They have a deep understanding, and so whenever we have the opportunity to elevate that community experience and connect that to organizational partners, policymakers, that’s when we are doing our best work and creating that more collective impact.”
McNair-Scott agreed, and mentioned the summit will emphasize the role of peers in recovery. Peer work means linking those tied up in the opioid epidemic with others who have shared experiences. This can be in informal or formal capacities, and McNair-Scott explained that peers are crucial to long-term recovery.
That’s why one of the most important aspects of the summit is having people openly share their personal stories.
“We want to start out by grounding this in experience,” McNair-Scott said. “I think it’s safe to say that everyone is impacted by the opioid epidemic or is one degree of separation apart.”