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Press conference seeks to draw attention to heroin/opioid epidemic in Milwaukee County

Two hundred fifty-one empty chairs were used during a press conference held today (Thursday) in Milwaukee to symbolize the number of drug overdose deaths in Milwaukee County last year, of which 220 were opiate/heroin related.

The press conference was held to increase awareness and educate the public about the prevalence and dangers of heroin and opioid abuse and to promote a Town Hall meeting being held Monday, Nov. 16, at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee.

“Despite the number of lives lost and the devastating impact to families and our community, many community members are still unaware of the epidemic and dangers of these drugs,” said Hector Colon, director, Department of Health & Human Services for Milwaukee County. “We can no longer sit in silence. It is imperative that we bring awareness to this crisis, help is available.”

Like the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Medical Society of Milwaukee County (MSMC) has made this public health crisis a top priority. At the local level, MSMC is partnering with the city of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and others to address the epidemic.

“We have entered a new era in pain management,” said George “Chip” Morris, MD, who is a member of both MSMC and the Society and serves as chair of the Society’s Opioid Task Force and the Council on Health Care Quality and Population Health. “We need to better educate physicians about this health crisis and help them talk with their patients. There doesn’t need to be another empty chair in this room.”

Other speakers included Sara Schreiber, Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office; Alderman Michael Murphy, president, Milwaukee Common Council; and Patti Lomas, a mother who lost her son to a heroin overdose.

For more information about the Town Hall meeting, click here. For more information about MSMC’s efforts, contact Executive Director Kathy Schmitz or visit MSMC’s website.

Pictured Above: Empty chairs were used to represent 251 overdose deaths in Milwaukee County in 2014 during a press conference held today in Milwaukee to increase awareness about this public health crisis.

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