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  • Wendy S. Kinsinger

ENAHEC Hosts Opioid Education Series

Erie Niagara AHEC conducted a six-part opioid education series from December 2022 through April 2023, sponsored by NY State AHEC and HRSA. Topics included maternal health, history, teens, fentanyl, and xylazine. ENAHEC was honored to have experts in their respective fields present both virtually and in person. We are very grateful to the following distinguished speakers:

· Sarah Cercone-Heavey, Ph.D., MPH

· Sarah Abdelsayed, M.D.

· Cheryll Moore

· David Herzog, Ph.D.

· Ashley Gerda

· Joshua Lynch, D.O.

In December and January Sarah Heavey and Sarah Abdelsayed of U.B. spoke from a public health and clinical perspective on maternal health and opioids. Both discussed the stigma and challenges of getting treatment for pregnant people and emphasized that opioid use disorder (OUD) is safely treatable in pregnancy. They also provided helpful and nuanced screening tools for substance use in maternal health. These presentations were attended by the public and doulas in our Birth Equity Project.

In February Cheryll Moore, Medical Care Administrator of the Erie County Department of Health Opiate Task Force explained that harm reduction has become a widely adopted policy in the U.S. She explained that harm reduction is meeting people where they are with substance use. Ms. Moore said that naloxone (Narcan) is the best example of harm reduction for OUD, and that ECDOH distributed 6,500 packages in 2022.

In March Ashley Gerda of Kids Escaping Drugs discussed working with teens and OUD. She emphasized talking to teens and not at them. She also shared strategies for recognizing OUD in teens and adolescents. Also in March David Herzberg spoke on the history of substance use in the United States. He highlighted the connections between capitalism and race. Dr. Herzberg described the historical classification of pain relief drugs as medicine versus criminalized drugs, and the role of racialized capitalism in the formation of U.S. policy.

Joshua Lynch, D.O., a national leader in addiction medicine, gave the keynote address: “Fentanyl (& Xylazine):the Changing Face of the Opioid Crisis,” on April 19th at the U.B. Medical School. Dr. Lynch shared that nearly all illicit drugs on the market in the U.S. today contain fentanyl. He also explained that mortality has been on the rise since 2020. Importantly, Dr. Lynch emphasized that opioids are a very useful tool in treating acute, chronic, and end-of-life pain. He also explained that xylazine (a large-animal veterinary medication), is increasingly mixed with illicit opioids, and described the challenges of addressing this emerging problem.

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