Community experts in the prevention and treatment of opioid abuse advocated for proactive and compassionate support of patients needing pain management at a panel discussion hosted by Women United in Philanthropy (WUP) on Tuesday, February 27.

Patients should look for alternatives to opioids for managing pain, such as yoga, acupuncture, and mindfulness meditation, before taking an opioid, according to Paul V. Targonski, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Public Health Services at the University of Virginia. “Ask yourself if you really need it,” advised Denise Bonds, MD, MPH, Director of the Thomas Jefferson Health District. “Or are you taking the minimal number of pills that you need?”

In 2014, more Virginians died of opioid overdoses than in traffic fatalities. In Central Virginia, opioid overdoses have not reached the high levels that they have in the southwestern part of the state, and multiple sources of prevention and treatment are available to patients coping with pain and addiction. These include Region Ten outpatient and residential treatment centers, which were described by Mary Jackson, MSW, Director of Women’s Residential Recovery for Region Ten.

Robert Tracci, JD, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Albemarle County, also advocated for compassion for opioid addicts who may commit low-level criminal offenses. “We can’t incarcerate our way out of this problem,” he said, and described the success of a local drug court that helps addicted individuals commit to be drug-free and employed to avoid incarceration.

Nearly 100 members of the community gathered at the Omni Charlottesville to learn from the WUP panel, part of a series of annual educational events hosted by WUP. The panel was moderated by Dorrie K. Fontaine, RN, PhD, Dean of the University of Virginia School of Nursing.