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IBX’s Share Your Opioid Story is collecting the tales of Pennsylvanians impacted by addiction

Friday, November 30, 2018

By Grace Shallow / CONTRIBUTOR

At community meetings about the opioid epidemic, Evan Figueroa-Vargas often hears grievances like “People are going to relapse again” or “They’re never going to amount to anything.”
These complaints are deep-rooted in stigma, but he believes he can help dispel them by taking the mic and sharing his story.

“I want to be that person to stand up to say that’s not necessarily the truth,” said Figueroa-Vargas, who is in long-term recovery and a program manager for the nonprofit Mental Health Partnerships (MHP). “Somebody gave me an opportunity with drug and alcohol treatment and as a result, I’m thriving in recovery. The quality of my life has improved drastically and … I am now doing positive things for the community.”

That’s also why he participated in Share Your Opioid Story, an initiative that’s collecting the stories of Pennsylvanians who have been impacted by opioid use disorder. Read his story here.

It launched in June and has collected a total of 150 stories from nearly every county in the state. Submissions are always being accepted online, said Glenn Sterner, the project’s coordinator and a criminal justice professor at Penn State University. The project is funded by the Independence Blue Cross Foundation with support from the state’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

(Foundation President Lorina Marshall-Blake said at this year’s Philanthropy Conference Greater Philadelphia that the org has a mission to fund strategies to end the opioid crisis.)

Sterner said it he believes the initiative showcases the “breadth of depth of the opioid epidemic within our region.” All of Pennsylvania’s counties but tworecorded drug-related overdose deaths in 2017, totaling 5,456About 22 percent of those deaths were recorded in Philadelphia.

But “we needed to use more than statistics to talk about how this issue can affect quite literally anybody from any background at any time,” he said.


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