First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum challenges leaders to eliminate stigma at U.S.-Canada Opioid Crisis Roundtable

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 2:30pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. – First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum today challenged U.S. and Canadian health officials to include people in recovery in policymaking decisions and embrace innovative approaches to recovery in communities such as the Free Through Recovery program in North Dakota.

Helgaas Burgum was a keynote speaker at the Cross-Border Health Foundation’s U.S.-Canada Opioid Crisis Roundtable in Washington, D.C., sharing her personal story of recovery and the importance of eliminating stigma and addressing addiction as a disease.

“The opioid crisis is an issue that deeply affects both the United States and Canada. This meeting provided an opportunity for knowledge sharing and collaboration,” she said. “I was honored and inspired by the proactive steps both countries are taking to eliminate stigma. There is a shared acknowledgment that stigma is one of the most significant barriers to care.”

The First Lady also delivered opening remarks for a session on access to care and population health in urban and rural communities. Helgaas Burgum shared the unique challenges North Dakota faces as a rural state and how innovative solutions are made through telehealth services, peer support specialization and an effort to develop advocacy networks and recovery community organizations.

The roundtable was hosted by The Pew Charitable Trusts and convened medical and behavioral health leaders from both the United States and Canada to discuss topics such as innovative prevention, treatment and recovery, reducing stigma and addressing barriers to care in rural communities. Those in attendance included Assistant U.S. Secretary for Health, Admiral Brett Giroir; Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam; U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., who sits on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.