Even though the black
community has historically evidenced higher rates of cocaine
use when compared to the nation as a whole, the current
issue is the increasing number of abused synthetic opioids.
As recently as 2014, the number of black opioid-related
deaths began to rise similarly to white opioid-related
deaths. The number of overdoses involving black Americans
and opioids has been increasing over the past eight years.
Experts from the Lucas
County Health Department, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Harm
Reduction Coalition and the National Congress on Faith and
Social Justice offered perspectives and guidance on
strategies for more equitable and comprehensive solutions to
The panel consisted of
Daniel Raymond, Kassandra Frederique, Alexis Pleus, Anton
Parks, Sr., Tonya Duran and Rev. Jerome McCorry.
Raymond is the policy
director for the Harm Reduction Coalition and has worked
with federal and state officials, advocates and providers to
expand critical drug user health interventions. He is the
chairman of the Drug Users Health Alliance and serves on a
host of other boards and committees in the state of New York
that focus on drug addiction issues.
Frederique is the New York
State director at the Drug Policy Alliance working for
policy solutions to reduce the harms associated with drug
use. She works with communities throughout the state to
address and resolve the collateral consequences of the War
on Drugs – state violence and in building a reparative
justice framework that positions black and Latino leaders to
create solutions to repair and end the harms of the drug
Pleus, a professional
engineer and adjunct professor at SUNY Broome in the civil
engineering technology program, founded Truth Pharm after
she lost her son, Jeff, to a heroin overdose. She had
discovered that as a parent she had been given false
information about how to deal with addicted children so her
primary focus is raising awareness, reducing stigma and
providing accurate education on substance abuse disorder.
Parks, a recovering
substance abuser and former gang member, sits on multiple
boards, volunteers extensively in his community in Toledo
and with the Re-entry Coalition. He fights against unjust
legislation that bans returning citizens from Federal Safety
Net programs and has traveled to D.C. to share his story of
opioid addition and stand up for returning citizens.
Duran, executive director
of Believe Center, Inc, has dedicated her life to helping
youth grow through sports into well-rounded additions to the
Toledo community. She co-founded the Sports Academy Center
organization and has established and maintained over 20
different sports teams working with a variety of community
groups such as the Farm Labor Organizing Community, the
Toledo Sports Alliance, the Toledo Community Center
Alliance, and others.
McCorry of the National
Congress on Faith & Social Justice is committed to ending
the new Jim Crow era of mass incarceration by addressing
poverty, voting inequities and lack of faith in the
application of criminal justice reform. He founded the Adam
Project of Dayton, OH in 2008, a faith-based non-profit that
works with African-American men and boys returning from jail
and prison to provide mentoring, counseling and employment
The Toledo Lucas County
Health Department was represented by Kimberly Toles who
presented an overview of the impact of overdoses on people
Panelists and audience
members were welcomed by Rev. Marcia Dinkins, the organizer
of the event and Erica Poellot served as the moderator.
Frederique spoke of the
racial undertones of the overdose crisis and the erasure of
people of people in the present opioid epidemic.
Pleus addressed the
negative impact of stigma; Raymond broke down the social
autopsy of the current public health crisis. McCorry wrapped
up the presentations by addressing faith leaders and
examining the theological tensions of the crisis.
After the panel’s
presentations a question and answer session followed.
After lunch, a world café
session was conducted by Blythe Barnow; a clergy corner with
McCorry and naxalone training with Toles. Dinkins presented
the day’s closing remarks.