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'Opioid Crisis Next Door' conference focuses on best practices, sustaining your coalition

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

SISAA Members: Mariah Bargman, Joann Emge, Shea Haury.

Springfield, IL - Members from the Southern Illinois Substance Abuse Alliance (SISAA), Mariah Bargman, Community Relations Coordinator/Marketing, Memorial Hospital, Chester; Joann Emge, CEO, Sparta Community Hospital; and Shea Haury, MS, LCPC, Executive Director, Human Service Center were among the 150-plus in attendance during the Opioid Crisis Next Door conference, "It's Everybody's Business," held Monday, June 24 at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation, 228 W. Miller Street, Springfield, IL.

The Opioid Crisis Next Door conferences were organized in an effort to increase awareness of the rapidly growing problem of opioid and heroin use in rural communities and the lack of community response. Together, the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services, the Illinois Department of Public Health, Center for Rural Health, the Critical Access Hospital Network (ICAHN), and SIU Medicine Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development partnered to bring the healthcare community, local organizations, and teams of concerned citizens together to assist in the fight.

"Since June of 2016, we've made it our mission to bring local coalitions, schools, health departments, law enforcement, healthcare providers, and other community stakeholders together in an effort to combat opioid misuse, heroin use, and other substance use disorders," said Pat Schou, FACHE, Executive Director, ICAHN. "Today, we are happy to showcase many new and veteran coalitions that are helping others join the effort. We also had the opportunity to show first-hand the impact our teamwork has had on Illinois' rural communities and what medical practitioners can do to assist with addition and harm reduction when it comes to opioid misuse."

Among the day's presenters were Tony Hoffman, former professional BMX racer, 2016 Rio Olympics Games BMX coach, and person in longterm recovery; Dan Zsido, retired lieutenant, Pinellas County Sheriff's Department Central Florida Narcotics Division; and Ngozi Ezike, MD, Director, of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

"As always, I remind you that when you return to your community, you have been charged with the task of keeping this momentum alive. We need you to contact your legislators and keep this issue in the forefront," said Schou, "We continue to seek funding for local treatment centers in rural America, and we can only accomplish this by working together." Those interested in more information or in joining a coalition are asked to contact Pat Schou at or by calling (815) 875-2999.

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