On Monday, October 1, the Blue Ridge Mountain Room at Ferrum College filled with over 200 students, faculty, staff and community members, eager to participate in “Saving Ourselves: A Symposium on the Opioid Crisis,” which featured New York Times Best-Selling author, Beth Macy.
The program, hosted by Martha Haley-Bowling, assistant professor of social work, and Lana Whited, professor of English and director of the Boone Honors Program, began in the afternoon with a continuing education event for regional social workers. The education event featured two parts: “Ethical Lapse and Relapse” and “Virginia’s Behavioral Health System and Opioid Crisis.” Later in the evening, Macy gave insight to the research she completed while writing her newest book, Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America. Following a reading of excerpts from her book, Macy and a diverse panel from the community answered questions and discussed the opioid crisis and its effect.
“We’re estimating that about 270 people attended the event, and the momentum for change was palpable. I’ve seldom seen a larger gathering of our community’s human resources marshaled in one place: the president of Piedmont Community Services, the principal at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, a juvenile court judge, an assistant commissioner from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health, our sheriff, the commonwealth’s attorney, the college president and vice president for academic affairs, representatives from Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, parents who have lost children to opioid addiction, recovering addicts, mental and behavioral health professionals working every day with addicts in various stages of recovery, and a New York Times Best-Selling author, Beth Macy. Beth is fond of quoting the author James Baldwin: ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed that is not faced.’ The purpose of this event was to confront, full-face, the opioid crisis, to ‘be woke’ to our capacity to initiate change,” said Dr. Whited, following the event.
Dr. Haley-Bowling stated, “It was amazing to see and hear the energy in the room last night as people talked about how the opioid epidemic has affected them personally and professionally. One of the keys for me is where do we go from here? We had an amazing dialogue but we can’t let it stop there. I know I will be looking for avenues to keep this conversation going.”
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