April 22, 2024


El Chicano, Colton Courier, Rialto Record

Ethnic Media Services Briefing Sheds Light on Innovative Approaches to Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery

2 min read

In a revealing briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services on January 18 titled “Fighting Substance Abuse – The Center at Sierra Health Foundation Highlights Breakthroughs in Prevention and Recovery,” industry experts came together to address the alarming rise in substance abuse and overdose deaths in California, while showcasing transformative approaches to prevention and recovery.

Kaying Hang of The Center at Sierra Health Foundation pointed out the grim reality that California saw over 109,000 overdose deaths in 2022, a figure staggering enough to fill the Sacramento Kings arena. “Overdose is now the leading cause of non-elderly death in the state, signaling a dire need for a shift in how we address substance abuse,” stated Hang. Reflecting on the past, Hang highlighted the decades of mass incarceration and stigma faced by drug users, particularly in the 80s and 90s. However, she brought a message of hope, noting that “the tide is turning, showing the government that the best way forward is care over incarceration.”

Sandy Close of Ethnic Media Services emphasized that while substance abuse and recovery may not traditionally attract philanthropic attention, The Center has been pioneering in promoting care over criminalization. Close also underscored the impact of substances like fentanyl in unincorporated areas of the Central Valley, a concern echoed by Marie Perez Ruiz of the Central Valley Empowerment Alliance.

Ruiz shed light on the plight of farmworker communities in the Central Valley, where over 5,000 people live in over 700 decaying dwellings. “These communities, predominantly comprised of indigenous, Mexican, and Filipino farmworkers, have been overlooked despite their vulnerability,” Ruiz stated. She elaborated on the launch of a rural equity community campaign aimed at empowering these marginalized groups.

Addressing the nationwide crisis, Arlene Brown, serving the Bishop community primarily composed of Native Americans, highlighted that “Native Americans have some of the highest overdose rates. Decolonizing services is crucial – tailoring them to resonate with our culture and address our unique needs.”

Braunz Courtney, focusing on the disproportionate impact on Black and African American communities, especially in Oakland, emphasized the importance of meeting individuals where they are. “It’s not just about offering help; it’s about understanding their goals, whether that’s accessing sterile drug use syringes or more comprehensive support. Our panelists’ services, including syringe service programs and drop-in centers, are making a tangible difference, helping people reverse overdoses and reclaim their lives,” said Courtney.

The briefing brought to the forefront the critical work being done by The Center at Sierra Health Foundation and its partners, highlighting the shift from punitive measures to holistic, culturally-sensitive care. As these leaders continue to champion innovative approaches to substance abuse prevention and recovery, the message is clear: understanding, compassion, and tailored support are key to turning the tide in this crisis.


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