Mark your calendars: LHU to host drug abuse panel in March

LOCK HAVEN — Lock Haven University and Advocates for a Drug Free Tomorrow will host a ninth town hall panel at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, at the Durrwachter Alumni Conference Center.

Local professionals will be featured at the event and focus on how to combat substance abuse.

Dr. Beth McMahon, professor of health science at LHU, will moderate the panel which will cover drug awareness, trends, treatment and navigating the system.

Representatives from the justice, legislative, mental health and medical fields will attend, including President Judge Craig P. Miller; Judge Michael Salisbury; the Clinton County Commissioners; Dr. Denise Feger, vice president of Crossroads Inc.; Ed Hosler, deputy chief probation officer; Dr. Henry Dietrich, Geisinger physician, and Jennifer Reeder, assistant director for the West Branch Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission.

“What we’d love to get out of this is just increasing turnout,” said McMahon.

LHU students, staff, faculty and the Lock Haven community are invited to participate in the panel discussion.

Hosler, who is also the co-chair of Advocates, said with this town hall, the committee wanted to tailor the material to an audience of students and educators. By titling the town hall “Moving Forward to Combat Substance Abuse: Educating for the Future,” Hosler said the panel can better inform the younger generations of the trends on drug abuse they are seeing.

“The people that are getting addicted (to drugs) are younger and younger,” he said.

McMahon said the variety of panelists accounts for the encompassing issue of addiction, which touches every aspect of community. According to her, almost every college major will be impacted by substance abuse upon graduation, whether you work in law enforcement, education, medicine, business or social services.

“We think it’s just a fantastic collaboration with all the non-profit organizations,” she said.

With a background in public health, McMahon said the issue of substance abuse is complicated and multi-faceted.

“This issue really needs a complete approach,” she said.

Hosting a community-centered panel appealed to McMahon because she believes the community must embrace those struggling with addiction.

“(The opioid crisis) is the largest public health epidemic in the last two decades,” she said. “We’re bringing up a whole new generation of students” that will be working in a society hard-hit by this crisis.

Hosler said that being an involved community member pushed him to get involved with Advocates, helping organize advocacy events and spread awareness of how to combat substance abuse.

He said he realized, “Hey, this (drug problem) isn’t going to go away, we need to help these people.”

Working in probation for 12 years made him see the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to drug abuse. He also said opiates are not the only problem–fentanyl and synthetic drugs are easy to get and pose significant dangers.

“We’re just striving to keep our communities safe,” he said. “We’re looking for long-term fixes, not band-aid solutions.”

McMahon lauded the county commissioners for the work they’ve done to curb opioid abuse, saying legislation is key to stopping the public health crisis in its tracks.

Often, mental health and substance abuse disorders are co-occurring, and exposing students to “full continuum of treatment” will help provide a more comprehensive, more effective solution to the crisis, McMahon said.

“The sooner our graduates are equipped with the skills they need, the sooner we can hit the ground running,” she said.