Stephanie Gyldenvand ’02 and ’21 MPA, alumnus of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, will be among the panelists at a Whitburn Wednesday event Feb. 23 to discuss the importance of open and honest dialogue about opioids to create a more supportive community for prevention, hope and recovery .
Responding to the Opioid Epidemic in Wisconsin will take place from 5-7 p.m. online via Zoom or in person at the Culver Family Welcome Center at UWO, Ballroom A. RSVP by Sunday, February 20.
Between 2019 and 2020, reported opioid overdose deaths increased by more than a quarter in Wisconsin, from around 1,200 to 1,530. The numbers increased as the coronavirus hit and disrupted social services, which necessitated new harm reduction strategies.
Gyldenvand, a community health strategist with the Winnebago County Health Department, recently completed a capstone project as part of her master’s degree in public administration from UWO.
She said the project gave her “the opportunity to hear from leading people with lived experience in the conversation about substance use.”
“Through many conversations over the summer of 2021, I’ve learned how essential a strong connection to the recovery community is to sustaining one’s own recovery,” she said. “I’ve also heard from people in recovery who need us to address our stigma around drug use, as it literally stops people from seeking help and delays a connection for help. Unfortunately, stigma and isolation kill people.
Gyldenvand said a public health perspective not only looks at the acute problem in question, but also steps back to look at the social determinants and community conditions that drive outcomes, such as overdose and death.
These factors can include gainful employment, access to transportation, a strong housing continuum, quality of education and childcare, equitable access to opportunity, how we respond to trauma from childhood, access to medical and treatment services, and a sense of connection and belonging.
“People in recovery are some of the most loving, genuine and honest people I’ve ever met,” she said. “The recovery community we have here in the Fox Valley area is strong and needs our support as well. We can do better as a larger community to become aware of the disease of addiction, to challenge our stigma, and to recognize and value the role of recovery.
Additional panelists at the event will include Trevor French, Executive Director of Solutions Recovery; Allyson Ford, nurse practitioner at Aurora Health Care; and Kurt Liebold, UWO Chief of Police.
The Whitburn Wednesdays monthly event series covers a wide range of pressing issues and features panelists representing a diversity of viewpoints. Events take place one Wednesday per month during the academic year, in person and/or online. This month’s event is sponsored by the Whitburn Center for Governance and Policy Research, UW Oshkosh Department of Public Administration, UW Oshkosh Police Department, and Winnebago County Public Health.