Our society is suffering from an opiate-abuse epidemic.

That was the stance of presenters at an April 15 panel at Mater Christi School in Burlington.

A panel of three and a facilitator shared their expertise on the subject of opiate abuse in the Vermont community.

The goal of the event was to help foster a better understanding of how opiate abuse happens, its social, mental and health impacts on the individual who suffers from substance abuse and the legal ramifications that accompany the problem.

Panelists were Dr. Stephen Leffler, chief health and quality officer at the University of Vermont; U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan; and Dr. Jody Kamon, a substance abuse counselor. The facilitator was Dr. John Reuwer, an emergency medicine physician.

Each presenter, speaking from his or her professional standpoint, explored with the audience the current state of opiate abuse in Vermont and offered a variety of possible solutions.

The presenters’ unanimously agreed that society is in the middle of an opiate abuse epidemic. One presenter emphasized that solutions must be found and acted upon now or it will be too late for many people who are at risk of either dying now or becoming victims of the results of substance abuse.

The two-hour session included sharing facts and ideas that may make it possible for caring persons to help someone suffering from the use of opiates or family and friends impacted by this disease.

The session began with a clip from Bess O’Brien’s movie, “The Hungry Heart.”

The Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Associates arranged the event.