On Wednesday, April 24, the Greater Bath Area Chamber of Commerce presented “Stop the Stigma” at Northampton Area High School. The event featured local nonprofits and expert panelists who educated the public on the area’s opioid epidemic.
“Each of us knows somebody that has been touched, somewhere, somehow…by substance abuse,” said Ann Flood, Chair of the Greater Bath Area Chamber of Commerce.
The evening featured resources on substance abuse recovery and support, as well as a mock teen bedroom set up by the Center for Humanistic Change. Over 100 items of drug paraphernalia were disguised in the bedroom as a way to educate parents and guardians on how to identify whether their child may be engaging with illegal substances.
Change on Main, Change on Third, Kolbe Academy, Narcotic Anonymous, Partners for a New Beginning, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, among other organizations, were present to answer questions, share literature, and offer support.
Panelists included Bob Steckel, Northampton Area School District Assistant to the Superintendent; Paige Roth, Lehigh Valley Health Network Addiction Recovery Specialist; Dr. Matthew McCambridge, Lehigh Valley Health Network Physician; Jordan Scott, Northampton County TCAP Case Manager; Judge Craig Dally, Northampton County Court of Common Pleas; and Tara Henry-Morrow, Lehigh Valley Health Network EMS Liaison and paramedic.
“We understand that this is a societal issue,” said Steckel. “We are part of society.”
Steckel says that the school oftentimes sees the genesis and warning signs of substance abuse issues.
“We will do whatever it takes to get help to the students,” he said. He said that the school sometimes has specialists on hand, but a lack of funding makes it hard to do more.
“We need more trained professionals…social workers, guidance counselors,” he added. “We need dedicated, permanent employees.”
He stressed that Northampton is not alone in this issue.
“Northampton High School does not have a drug problem,” he said. “Pennsylvania does.”
Dr. McCambridge spoke of changes in the medical industry. At one time, he said, pharmaceutical representatives would bribe doctors to prescribe their drugs. Now, there are computer systems in place that monitor doctors’ prescribing habits.
“A lot of progress is left to be made,” he added.
Roth and Scott not only spoke as experts, but as individuals in substance abuse and recovery.
“Every patient that I see feels shame,” said Roth. She encouraged others to “love these people,” not stigmatize them as outsiders.
“People who struggle with substance abuse are not junkies,” said Scott. “I am not a junkie. I have a name.”
Both women spoke openly of their experiences and how they use those experiences to connect with their patients. They remain committed to sharing their stories and reducing the stigma associated with addiction.
“Stigma,” Scott said, “reduces [people] to a mistake.”