Opioid Work Group plans for action

Opioid Work Group plans for action
About 60 community members and representatives from various organizations around the city attended the "Opioid Community Action Planning Meeting" on Monday, hosted by the Opioid Work Group.

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

Alexandria’s Opioid Work Group hosted an “Opioid Community Action Planning Meeting” on Monday to address the impact of the national opioid crisis at the local level.

About 60 people attended the meeting, representing various organizations throughout the city, including the Department of Community and Human Services, the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria (SAPCA), the Alexandria Health Department, the police department, the sheriff’s department, Inova Alexandria and EMS. In addition to official representatives of organizations and the Opioid Work Group, several interested community members attended the event.

The action planning meeting was the work group’s next phase after hosting a town hall meeting on Feb. 28 titled “A Community Conversation: Heroin and Other Opioids.” While the last meeting sparked a conversation, Monday’s meeting was meant to be more proactive.

“Tonight is when we need you to provide information about activities, strategies, things that we should be doing in the City of Alexandria in order to address the opioid issue,” Allen Lomax, SAPCA chair and Opioid Work Group member, said at the start of the gathering.

The event was formatted as several roundtable discussions. The five focus groups were prevention and education, treatment, overdose response and recovery, diversion and supply reduction and law enforcement. Attendees were able to choose two of the five focus groups to participate in over the course of the hour and half meeting.

“We often find that we have our perspectives, but so many community members have different diverse views that it helps us make a much richer plan,” Lomax said.

Liz Wixson, director of clinical and emergency services for DCHS, said the work group would compile the ideas and strategies brainstormed at the meeting and mesh them with their existing initiatives.

“I have a feeling, I hope that the priorities that come out is that the community wants to be involved,” Wixson said.

Lomax said another goal of the action meeting was to identify and facilitate partnerships with community organizations such as churches and recreation centers that are not yet involved with the Opioid Work Group.

“We’re all working together, but it’s a small slice of the city, of what needs to get done and is actually in the neighborhoods and the offices and the recreation centers,” Lomax said.

Wixson said the outcome of the roundtable discussions would be available in the coming weeks and would help the work group plan its next steps in fighting the opioid crisis.