CHARLESTON, W.Va. — What’s called the Toronto Drug Strategy could possibly work in West Virginia when dealing with the opioid epidemic.

Susan Shepherd, manager of the Toronto Drug Strategy Secretariat, appeared in Charleston Thursday night as part of a panel discussion sponsored by Rise Up WV.

The TDS is comprehensive drug strategy for the City of Toronto that focuses on prevention, harm reduction, treatment and enforcement. Shepherd said you need all four to battle the epidemic.

“We need to be collaborating and working together and supporting each other’s efforts. I think the common ground is that hopefully we all want to do what we can to save lives. Fundamentally that’s the crisis point where we are at, people are dying at an alarming rate,” Shepherd said.

Harm reduction, which the Charleston has struggling with, is not something to be afraid of, Shepherd said.

“We want to make sure that we use evidence-based strategies so that they don’t come to further harm while they are using drugs,” Shepherd said. “Not everybody is ready or wants treatment so you need to provide that harm reduction approach at the front end.”

Toronto’s efforts are currently working on an overdose action plan. Shepherd said the fight against the epidemic can grow weary for all involved.

“The traumatic impact–I don’t think we clearly have a sense of what that impact will be,” she said.

Shepherd was part of the panel discussion Thursday night along with Lois Vance of Cabin Creek Health and Dr. Lindsay Acree of the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy.

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