WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - For those battling opioid addiction, the road to recovery is long, winding and sometimes - impossible - without support.

On Saturday, the recovery organization “Grip It” partnered with agencies and groups across the Triad to host a day dedicated to finding access to active recovery. A group of panelists - an EMS captain, a police chief, a public health director, a clinical social worker and a former addict in recovery - sat down to discuss options.

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In addition to having conversations about combating the opioid epidemic, and educating the public, much of the forum focused on "harm reduction." It's a way to keep current users safe, with methods such as syringe exchanges: handing out clean needles, and having a place where users can properly dispose of their old ones. The panel agreed that harm reduction is crucial to fighting the opioid crisis.

“We like to encourage positive change one small step at a time,” said Chase Holleman, director of a mobile syringe exchange program in Guilford County, who is also in recovery, “If we can get someone from using the same syringe over and over and over again - increasing their risk for infection, all sorts of bad things - to using one syringe once, then that's a huge win, that's a step in the right direction.”

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The panel discussed how the approach to opioid abuse is changing. Kernersville Police Chief Tim Summers says this is a problem they can't arrest their way out of, and it's about an understanding on every level to get people the help they need.

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Recovery coach David Kessler, founder of Grip It, has been in recovery for 8 years now. He says the most effective tool: finding someone who's been there.

“In order to do something you've never do - you need to find someone who's done it before,” he said, “It's not just about trying - it's about knowing I've got someone who's going through this with me. That is the important part: to get into recovery and remain effective and successful with your recovery, is to find someone else who is in recovery.”

The panel says every discussion and hard conversation about substance abuse - helps end the stigma.

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