Opioid panel to discuss experiences, effects of drugs

GVL / Sara Carte

GVL / Sara Carte

Taylor Crowley

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Opioid addiction is not a discriminatory disease. It crops up in both cities and suburbs, oblivious to the different demographics of its victims. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) is hosting a panel to discuss stigmas and the opioid epidemic at 6 p.m. in the DeVos Center Loosemore Auditorium on Thursday, March 22. 

Lindsey LeQuia and Haley Sullivan, executive board members of UAEM, will lead the discussion during the Opioid Public Health Crisis Panel to educate people in the Grand Rapids area. 

LeQuia and Sullivan were inspired to host the panel after attending a UAEM conference in Atlanta, Georgia, where they listened to a panel about raising awareness about medicinal access in the U.S. and around the world.

The panel was more targeted toward the stigma of opioids. Sullivan said that now, a year later, she believes the stigma has lessened but that it is still very present; the bigger issue is allegedly the inaction of professionals who are aware of the problem.

The two have been thinking about putting this panel together for over a year now but said they have gotten very serious about it since January. 

LeQuia and Sullivan took an integrative approach and invited people from different backgrounds to discuss their experience with opioid users and their recovery process. In total, they invited five panelists: a biomedical ethics professor, a lieutenant from the Grand Rapids Police Department, a physician’s assistant in pain management, an emergency medicine physician, and a clinical psychologist who specializes in alcohol and drug use recovery counseling. 

The panelists will discuss their experiences working with opioid users. The diversity of the panelists is intended to show how opioids are impacting not just one specific demographic, but people from all kinds of backgrounds.

“Talking to the professionals makes the conversation less nerve-wracking,” Sullivan said. “Although they are super well-versed in this stuff, they make you feel very comfortable because they want to get their point across.”

LeQuia and Sullivan are expecting local undergraduate students to attend the panel and encourage people of all majors to join. 

“We work in a hospital downtown, and we deal with a large patient population,” LeQuia said. “I’ve dealt with patients that have been withdrawing from heroin. When you see the other side of it, you have a certain source of empathy for them.” 

Being a part of the medical field, LeQuia and Sullivan want to push medical students to keep educating  themselves on how to treat addiction. They believe that if there were more education on how a variety of professional fields could contribute to treatment, the number of opioid users could decrease over time. 

LeQuia and Sullivan want to encourage interested individuals to come to the panel and bring any questions they have. They will be available for a Q&A session after the panel concludes.