MADISON, Ala. - The city of Madison held an Opioid Forum Tuesday to spread awareness and let students, parents, and community members know about important resources to combat addiction.
It was at James Clemens High School in the auditorium starting at 6:30 p.m.
Council member Maura Wroblewski co-hosted the event, along with the James Clemens PTA and WHNT News 19's Kristen Conner as the moderator.
Volunteers with Not One More Alabama brought a resource trailer that is designed to look like a teen drug abuser's bedroom. Sally Barton, Discovery Trailer Coordinator with Not One More Alabama, said it is a resource for parents to help identify signs of problems within their family and know when to seek help.
"What we're trying to do is make parents get into their kids' faces and go into their rooms, look in their rooms. The more we talk about it, and the more we show people these things, the easier it's going to be for everybody to come together and realize that by doing so, we could help somebody."
She stated, "This trailer is in memory of my son who died from an overdose. You don't want to be in this club. He was only 32 years old."
The trailer is interactive. As you walk through, presenters will show you Pringles cans, pens, even hair brushes that can be converted into places to hide drugs, for example.
"If you are a parent, and you're intuitive, and you are suspecting that something is going on, your intuition is probably right," Barton said. "Go in their room and look."
The forum included a panel including Patty Sykstus, President of Not One More Alabama, members of the Madison Drug Task Force; members of the Partnership for a Drug-Free Community; and Tyler Berryhill, Chief Deputy Madison County Coroner. They discussed resources to combat addiction, offered personal stories of how addiction has affected their families and professions, and provided ways for families to recognize and overcome addiction in their community. Law enforcement from the Madison Police Department were in the lobby to talk to parents and community members about other concerns.
"It's everywhere in our city and our state. No one is spared," said Wroblewski. "I believe the more information we can give people, the better understanding they are going to have of this situation and the better they will be able to fight for their child."
Organizers said the goal is to host two of these forums per year to keep the conversation going.
"Have a conversation with your family," Wroblewski said, "Find out how your kids are feeling, are there any concerns they have? Even if your children seem fine, there might be more. The whole idea of this is to start the conversation."
The panel at the event says it's time to fight the stigma about addiction, realize it's a disease, and keep talking about it.
Sykstus shared the story of her own family's drug addiction and recovery. She said, "As a parent, you know something's not right but you keep it to yourself and you don't share. You don't talk. The minute that I started talking about it was the most liberating time of my life in terms of being able to just be ok with it and accept it for what it was."
She added, "Most people struggle with being open and sharing and discussing something that carries as much stigma as drug abuse does. And the minute that you start talking about it, it takes the power away from it."
Below is a sample of the resources available to those who are in need of help, or know someone in need of help:
- Bradford Health Services: inpatient and outpatient services
- Not One More Alabama: Support for families
- Partnership for a Drug Free Community: Coalition of advocates offering various programs
- Other resources can be found by clicking this link.
"There is no one who is beyond help if they are willing to put in the time and effort for recovery," said Evan Seale of Bradford Health Services.