Burke said a relative was prescribed prescription pain medicine, which caused dependence and then withdrawal when the medication was not available. She saw how ill her relative became without it – and the “slippery slope” that led into abusing other substances.
Treatment at the time was not readily available, Burke said. And her relative had no insurance, which made seeking out treatment even harder.
“I was well-versed in the health care world,” Burke said. “But I was stumped on how to get them help. I didn’t know what to do.”
Burke said she’s “learned a lot” since then.
For instance, she has served as president of her own company, Strategic Prevention, where she offered a variety of services: addiction recovery coaching, harm reduction training to community first responders and consulting services to new drug-free coalitions, according to her biography.
“The system of care with behavioral health is broken,” Burke said. “And my passion is about helping to put it together in a way that serves the people who need it most.”
Burke feels the opioid epidemic started when OxyContin became available in the early 1990s. Oxycontin provided “remarkable, well-needed” pain relief for patients in end-stage cancer.
“It was meant for short-term, end-of-life care,” Burke said. “It was never meant for chronic care.”
But doctors were told it was not addictive, Burke said. And so doctors began prescribing OxyContin for chronic pain because it relieved pain so well.
“The problem with opioids is that when you take them, your tolerance level goes up and you need more and more to get the same pain relief,” Burke said. “So people started misusing them to get the same level of pain relief.
"Before you knew it, people were dependent on a large amount of pills and they didn’t know what else to do … 80% of people who have used heroin or are addicted to heroin started with prescription pain pills.”
On the other hand, Burke said some people who live with chronic pain are having their care interrupted because of the opioid epidemic, simply because some doctors are now afraid to properly treat them.
Burke is glad Gov. Bruce Rauner signed bills that increase people’s access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, which includes improving insurance coverage and removing barriers to treatment, such as prior authorizations, she said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Alcohol and Drug Awareness Day
WHEN: 1 to 6 p.m. Sept. 28
WHERE: Harmony Community Church, 16925 W. Rosalind ST. Joliet
ETC: Speakers, information booths, Narcan training. For a complete listing, see the flyer at the end of the online version of this story at theherald-news.com/lifestyle/people
INFORMATION: Visit harmonycommunitychurch.net.