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GAH Optimistic About Coalition Encouraging Legislators to Fund Rural Treatment Centers

June 10, 2016

GAH Optimistic About Coalition Encouraging Legislators to Fund Rural Treatment Centers

Photo (left to right): Joe Higgins, Director of Ambulance, Facility Safety & Emergency Management; Jan Wilson, Clinic Office Manager; Jessica Delost, In-House Counsel, JD; Jo Ann Jay, RN, BSN, CEN, Assistant Executive Director Nursing, Emergency Department Director; Cindi Philipchuck, Nursing Executive of Operations, RN; and Kenna Dunlap Johnson, Director of Behavioral Health, MSW, LCSW, MBA

Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, law enforcement, mental and behavioral health providers and concerned citizens were among the 225-plus in attendance during the "Opioid Crisis Next Door: 2016 Rural Health Summit," held Thursday, June 2, at the Crowne Plaza, Springfield, IL. Among those attending were professionals from Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services (GAHHS), including Jessica Delost, In-House Counsel, JD; Joe Higgins, Director of Ambulance, Facility Safety & Emergency Management; Jo Ann Jay, RN, BSN, CEN, Assistant Executive Director Nursing, Emergency Department Director; Kenna Dunlap Johnson, Director of Behavioral Health, MSW, LCSW, MBA; Nursing Executive of Operations Cindi Philipchuck, RN; and Jan Wilson, Clinic Office Manager.

The "Opioid Crisis Next Door: 2016 Rural Health Summit" was organized in an effort to increase awareness of the rapidly growing problem of opioid and heroin use in rural communities and the lack of community response. Together, the Illinois Pharmacist Association, the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services, the Illinois Department of Public Health, Center for Rural Health, and the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network (ICAHN) partnered to bring the healthcare community, local organizations, and teams of concerned citizens together to assist in the fight.

"With 88 people dying nationwide every single day due to this problem, it’s a legal obligation of ours, as healthcare providers, to bring awareness to this issue and take the steps necessary for fixing this epidemic," said Mark Rossi, ICAHN Board President and COO of Hopedale Medical Complex. "Today, we issue a call to action to anyone and everyone who wants to see it stopped. I think we made great strides in this statewide collaboration."

Among the day’s presenters were Sam Quinones, journalist and author of Dreamland, Scott Brink of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency; and Tim Ryan, a community activist, successful entrepreneur, former nationally ranked barefoot water skier and the father of four who lost everything due to his bad choices of letting alcohol and drug abuse control his life. Doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement, and substance abuse partners were also an integral part of the roundtable discussions and identification of rural community treatment and coalitions already at work to combat opioid abuse and heroin use.

Called to the front lines of this battle are mental health workers. GAHHS Director of Behavioral Health Kenna E. Dunlap Johnson, MSW, LCSW, MBA, understands the components of combatting the disease of addiction as a mental health expert. "Opioid addiction often starts with pain, which impacts a person not just physically, but also emotionally.  It is important that we identify and implement interventions early to prevent opioid addiction and help people to find alternatives to managing pain and coping with the emotional impact that pain has on a person.  Behavioral health is at the root of many public health crises such as the opioid crisis because many people lack the resources to cope with their stressors.  Behavioral interventions can assist them in identifying healthier and more productive ways of coping with psychosocial and physical stressors."

Johnson found inspiration in the conference, knowing that a serious issue is now being addressed and outreach to help communities and patients is possible.

"The process has just begun. When each of you returns to your community, you have been charged with the task of keeping this momentum alive. We need you to contact your legislators and keep this issue in the forefront," said Pat Schou, ICAHN Executive Director. "We are seeking immediate funding for local treatment centers in rural America, and we can only accomplish this by working together."

As Emergency Department Director at Gibson Area Hospital, Jo Ann Jay is keenly aware of the damage inflicted by drug abuse and the need to take prompt action. "The physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial torture of addiction is real and doesn’t discriminate based on gender, income, zip code or best intentions. Addicts are our brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and neighbors; addiction will take them from this life. Parents losing children, children losing parents, communities losing the very reason they exist… the people. The cure of treatment is real but far too often less obtainable than the substances that are killing us." An emotionally charged summary of her experience at the conference, Jay’s accurate observations reflect the passion that Pat Schou is seeking to drive the coalition forward.

Those interested in more information or in joining the coalition are asked to contact Pat Schou at pschou@icahn.org or by calling (815) 875-2999.

How to Contact Us

To contact Gibson Area Hospital directly call (217) 784-4251. For Security Concerns please call the Security Officer at (217) 379-7781. For general questions or comments about the GAHHS website, fill out the form on the contact page or email .

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