Heroin crisis: Post reporter to moderate opioids panel at national conference

As a lifelong resident of Palm Beach County, Clarence Anthony knows he is in a unique position to help shine a spotlight on the opioid crisis tearing apart communities across the United States.

Anthony is executive director of the National League of Cities, a Washington-based advocacy group and resource for municipal leaders and city governments.

Former South Bay Mayor Clarence Anthony

The league’s annual Congressional City Conference, which starts Saturday in Washington, will include two sessions about the opioid epidemic.

At Anthony’s request, The Palm Beach Post is scheduled to moderate a panel discussion on Monday with Huntington, W. Va., Mayor Steve Williams and Sally Satel with the Yale University School of Medicine.

On Tuesday, the NLC will host a Town Hall workshop on the epidemic.

Monday’s panel discussion will kick off the main afternoon meeting, which will be followed with a speech from Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin.

It’s unclear, though, Shulkin will discuss the opioid epidemic.

Anthony, a former mayor of South Bay, said he invited Palm Beach Post reporter Pat Beall to moderate Monday’s panel after following the newspaper’s extensive coverage of the crisis.

In particular, he said, he was moved by the newspaper’s front page on Nov. 20, 2016, which featured the faces of all 216 people who died of accidental overdoses in 2015 as part of a yearlong investigation into the crisis.

“With all those faces, that was the most impactful piece I’d seen,’’ Anthony said. I knew some of the names and the families.’’

The Town Hall will be similar to a panel hosted in February by the National Association of Counties. Attendees at that conference, also held in Washington, included two Palm Beach County commissioners.

Pat Beall, Palm Beach Post investigative reporter. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

More than 2,000 municipal leaders are expected to attend the NLC conference next week. Local leaders will include West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and Lake Worth City Commissioner Andy Amoroso.

“This meeting is focused on advocacy and education,’’ said Anthony, who returns home to West Palm Beach most weekends.

“There are cities all over America that are doing creative things to address this problem. Safe injection sites in Seattle is prime example.

“Our ultimate goal is to give our elected officials the tools to go back home and implement some of the specific programs that other communities have found successful.’’

Another goal, he said, will be to continue encouraging leaders to look past the stigma of drug addiction that has delayed effective responses.

“We think we know that from our data that local government officials are the most trusted level. So when they go back, whether they like it or not, they have to be leaders in coming up with solutions and assume their role of leadership around this issue,’’ Anthony said

“And they can only do that through reading your articles and also learning from each other, what has worked what are some of the challenges with that they’ve recommended.

“We know this panel is timely. We know the workshop is needed.’’

 

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