Tackling the Opioid Crisis



The opioid crisis is a problem that we all face. Most people know someone who has been deeply affected as a result of this awful problem. Last year, it got so bad here in Florida, Governor Rick Scott declared a public health state of emergency in order to access federal funding quickly to deal with the problem.

Locally, it is particularly bad on the Suncoast. Manatee County is the epicenter and here in Sarasota we certainly are close behind Manatee. We are third in the state for the highest rate of opioid deaths.

This horrific problem is resulting not only in deaths shattering families, but is also having a chain reaction of epic proportions. It is taxing our foster care system with neglected children who may end up depending on the government for their care their entire childhoods, clogging our emergency rooms and hospitals with overdoses and upending our criminal justice system as we know it as courts and jails are overflowing with crimes as a result of this epidemic.

Alarmed at how this problem is affecting the community and their congregations, in September 2017, local church leaders met in an Opioid Crisis Clergy Conference to better understand the problem. It was a call to action for the clergy. At that conference, they decided to expand their outreach in both partnerships and in education.

The Argus Foundation is proud to be a part of a movement by the faith-based community to have community conversations about this epidemic. The Sarasota Ministerial Association, the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, the Diocese of Venice, with Humanity Working to End Genocide in the lead, have planned a family-friendly Opioid Symposium on Sunday, Feb. 25, from 2-3:30pm at St. Martha’s School in Bishop Nevin’s Zazarino Center on Fruitville Road in Sarasota.

Attendees will hear from our medical examiner, a psychiatrist, a drug treatment center executive, and a homeless services non-profit as part of a panel. Recovery faith-based ministry booths will be included in the program. The event is free and open to the public, doors open at 1:30pm.

This is the first step in a process for the community to address this issue. After education, the next step would be to develop a plan that is actionable and to implement it as a collaborative response to this devastating problem.

This partnership and collaboration fits in well with our mission statement and how we approach community problems. The Argus Foundation applies business leadership to identify, educate, advocate, and collaborate on solutions for important community issues that will enhance the quality of life, environment, and economic well-being of Sarasota County. We search for solutions to underlying causes of social, economic, and physical problems of the community. The Argus concern is to understand the underlying nature of problems, and apply private sector experience to public problems. We do not expect to solve problems with quick fixes, but believe in systematic change, persistent attention and time in moving us to a better community.

We are honored to participate in this important program with our clergy who are embracing this very philosophy when approaching this problem. We are grateful to them for their efforts and humbled by their invitation to join this effort. Please attend and be a part of this important movement. This problem will not be solved by government, it will be improved only by unified community efforts.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation.

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