FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 30, 2017
Contact: HHS Press Office
202-690-6343
media@hhs.gov

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan’s Opioids Listening Session in Lexington, Kentucky

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On Friday, Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan and senior HHS officials traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, to visit the Polk-Dalton Clinic and the PATHways Program, which serves pregnant women recovering from addiction and their babies. Acting Secretary Hargan toured the facility and held a roundtable discussion with medical experts, local non-profit leaders, individuals receiving treatment and in recovery, and others impacted by the opioid epidemic.

Acting Secretary Hargan opened the roundtable discussion by thanking the group for their willingness to share their stories and for their work to address the crisis in the community. He highlighted HHS’s and the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to address the opioid epidemic and the significance of Thursday’s action of declaring a nationwide public health emergency on the opioid crisis.


During the meeting, individuals in recovery shared their personal stories, many of which began with addiction in early teen years. One woman shared how the unique approach of the PATHways program has allowed her to stay sober, become a more present mother, and even become a peer support specialist to other women joining the PATHways program. A mother shared the personal story of losing her son to the epidemic and her commitment to educate others about the crisis. Community expert and leaders discussed opportunities and challenges they experience in providing services in Kentucky. The individuals participating in the roundtable shared their personal views that addiction must be addressed as a chronic condition requiring a multi-layered approach to include community connection, innovative treatment and ongoing support.

The following individuals participated in the Kentucky event:

  • Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan
  • Mark Birdwhistell, Vice President for Administration & External Affairs, UK HealthCare  
  • Alex Elswick, Co-Founder, Voices of Hope
  • Dr. Agatha Critchfield, Co-Founder & Medical Director, PATHways Program
  • Nikki Strunk, Parent of Deceased, Brendan Strunk
  • “L,” PATHways Patient
  • Rachel Coburn Smith, Executive Director, Refuge Clinic
  • Cornelia ‘Neal’ Vaughan, Founder, Chrysalis House
  • Dr. Peter Giannone, Chief, Division of Neonatology & Vice Chair, Pediatric Research, UK  HealthCare
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Last revised: October 30, 2017

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