Joe Tilton (photo)
The Summit in downtown Atlanta the 22nd through 25th, was an all-four-day, all-everything event with 4,000 attending various presentations. There was no way to attend every conference. However, presentations relating to rural areas were given careful attention.
Tuesday, Gabe Wilkerson told how he lives in a county of 370 square miles and 10,765 people. In his county, 25-percent of the youth are not working and not in school. They are doing their best to identify early users of marijuana, alcohol, pills and meth and those in depression because of them. Officials have discovered that 34-percent of students from the sixth to 11th grades are clinically depressed. “We have insurance and medicaid barriers,” Wilkerson said, “but we have organized an eight-county health-care system, and have found ways to identify students in crisis.”
Building relationships with mental-health providers has helped in getting more kids “communal” and lowering suicide rates. “There’s a lot of hopelessness in our county,” he continued. “There’s a sweet spot between prevention and treatment.” He said they have lots of meetings and organizations bridging the issues. “The 12-step program is a miracle resource,” he continued. “We have identified the kids not using rugs and enlisting their help and asking them to speak up.”
There was either a lack of trust of faith-based organizations to help with drug prevention and addiction recovery, or something else that kept the subject quiet. Only two times in the four-day event were ministers or faith-base involvement mentioned, and one of those comments was from President Trump who urged cooperation. The other mention was from Congressman Hal Rogers.
While Rogers spoke to Summit participants, we heard more about reasons for using drugs. Yet the overall reported reason is loneliness among youth from technology disconnects and traumatic events early in life.
The only pharmacist in Congress is Buddy Carter, who expressed great concern over maternal mortality from opioids. “It’s not a partisan issue,” he said. “This problem impacts every profession and everyone. Even the medical community has some bad actors.”
Another person in Congress, Susan Brook (R-IN), told the Summit during a joint session, “Since 1999, drug overdose has multiplied four-times. Drug trafficking is the number one reason for murder in our nation.” She questioned why were in serious pain with the fact, “We are 4.3-percent of the population while we consume 80-percen t of the opioids in the world.”
William Clay, a 10-term Congressman, reported opioid death is the number one killer in his district, which is more than gun violence and all reasons for death. His district has had 782 drug-caused deaths this last year.”
A consensus among members of Congress attending the Summit is the call to stop bickering over illegal-drug issues and become “Team America” and “stop all the bickering.” Another theme heard several times is how we incarcerate 25-percent of the world’s prisoners while we are 4.3-percent of the world’s population. Treating addicts instead of locking them up appears to be more possible now than ever, thanks to some new treatments (chemicals) revealed at this Summit.
Reminder: 97-percent plus of all opioid users began with marijuana.