Although we can’t be together in person, I’m excited that you have decided to join us virtually for the 2020 Rx Summit. It is critical that we continue the momentum we have built together by exchanging timely, relevant information and best practices.
Back in the 1980s, when phones had cords and a rotary dial, AT&T had the advertising slogan “Reach Out and Touch Someone.”
The company understood the fundamental need to be connected – to family and to community – no matter where you were or what the barriers.
And although our technology sure has changed, our need to be a part of something has not. Nowhere is this a truer statement than in the recovery community. The recovery community needs to know that we are here to help them move into treatment, support them during recovery and help them integrate back as full members of the community. They need to know that we are with them on this lifelong journey.
And you need to know that we are with you as well. You do not have to solve every problem yourself or come up with every answer. We will work with you.
Even from across the country, we are joined together for the next few days in the spirit of hope with a sense of resolve – doing what needs to be done as if our futures depend on it … because they do.
Seventeen years ago, Congressman Rogers sounded the alarm. He formed Operation UNITE as a holistic approach to combat an epidemic that was taking lives and destroying communities within our region of southern and eastern KY. He then took to the halls of Washington to do the same. Often called the Paul Revere of the opioid epidemic for sounding that alarm, Congressman Rogers is the reason we are here today. Knowing that this problem was not confined to his district and knowing that a multi-faceted approach requires a multi-pronged solution, with his guidance, we began the Rx Summit nine years ago.
We build upon that work today.
During this Summit, we will continue to look at all the critical components of a holistic response – law enforcement, treatment and education/prevention because we know that we are stronger together.
We owe it to families and communities across the country to ensure that we do not take a step back, we do not take our eye off the ball. And we must anticipate and prepare for new threats – such as stimulant abuse, which is co-occurring with opioid use more and more.
We must remain focused on this epidemic in the middle of a pandemic.
In the midst of the dire headlines that we read daily, let me give you some hope for why we are here and how we are making a difference.
Ashley McCarty was a 4.0 student in school. With a college degree in hand, she became a pharmaceutical sales representative and was ranked by her employer as one of the top five sales representatives out of 10,000 employees in the nation.
Homelessness and jail time were not in this perfectionist’s plans, but they are part of her story.
After two surgeries and prescription opioids, Ashley lost her job and burned through $200,000 in savings in 18 months buying drugs off the street.
She packed up everything she could pawn, then lived in her car before moving into a metal building with no plumbing. She used a bucket in the corner as her bathroom.
But that is not the end of her story. Ashley got the help she needed through jail and a rehab facility, where she stayed in residential treatment for a year. Recovery gave her a new life.
Today, Ashley is one of two specialists hired by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to assist employers in creating a recovery-friendly culture and reduce the stigma of substance use disorder and mental health. She meets with executives from top companies across the state. When she shows them a mugshot of herself taken seven years ago, she sees their surprised reaction and watches the walls being torn down.
She told us: “I know that my story is the key that can unlock someone else’s prison. I want to share my experience, strength, and hope. I want others who are still suffering to know that they are not too broken or too far gone to create change and that they should never stop fighting. I feel blessed that I no longer have a secret, but instead I have a story.”
There are hundreds of Ashleys – and thousands of potential Ashleys – out there who need us.
By helping each other gain knowledge about emerging threats and best practices, you are creating hope where you are. Community by community, we will win this battle because we are stronger together.
We appreciate your dedication. We appreciate your voice of hope. Thank you for joining us at the 2020 Virtual Rx Summit.
Every single thing you do matters.
Nancy Hale, president & CEO of Operation UNITE, addressing the opening of the 9th Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit on April 14, 2020.