Heroin, opioid problem topic at meeting
More than 50 concerned citizens gathered at the Teamsters Local 773 Union Hall, Whitehall, July 24 to listen to a panel of speakers discuss the ongoing heroin and opioid addiction problem that is plaguing the state and country, too often with fatal consequences.
Co-hosting the event were Dennis Hower, president of Teamsters Local 773; Tom Tosti, director of AFSCME District Council 88; Gregg Potter, president of Lehigh Labor Council; and state Rep. Dan McNeill, D-133rd.
The crowd was a mix of union members and the general public, who traveled from as far away as Berks County to attend the meeting, billed as “Listen, Learn, Ask.”
Speakers included Joe Martellucci, Lehigh County assistant administrator for drug and alcohol; Bill Stauffer, executive director for the Pennsylvania Recovery Organization-Alliance (PRO-A) and a person in long-term recovery; Jim Phelan, a volunteer who counsels inmates at Lehigh County Jail; Doug Rafeld, from Express Scripts; and Donna Jacobsen, the leader of Lehigh Valley Parent Group and the mother of a daughter in recovery.
“At our first town hall meeting, someone stood up and said, ‘If you don’t know someone who is affected by this problem, within five years, you will,’” McNeill said. “I personally know several people, good people, who have loved ones battling heroin addiction. It now affects one out of every four families in the state. Last year, 13 people a day died of a drug overdose. We have to do more.”
This is the fifth town hall meeting on the crisis that McNeill has participated in since last February.
Stauffer shared his story of alcohol and drug abuse, which started at age 11. He said he has been clean and sober for more than 25 years.
Jacobsen told the story of her daughter’s battle with addiction and her struggle to finally get clean.
“Her doctor prescribed Xanax for her anxiety,” Jacobsen said. “She eventually ended up a heroin addict with a young daughter, but we never gave up on her. She’s now clean and sober, and she recently moved out on her own, and for the first time, her daughter is living with her.
“I never thought I would be the mother of a heroin addict. She comes from a loving, hardworking family,” she said. “If it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. It could happen to you. You can never stop loving the addict, or they’ll never make it.”