Sheryl Hirsh


“The Opioid Epidemic: Where Are We Now?” will take place Dec. 8 at the Landmark Centre Building.

The daylong conference will review changes in hospitals, emergency rooms and in psychiatric care due to the opioid epidemic.

Sheryl Hirsh, assistant director of Jewish Lifelong Learning, started this annual conference shortly after losing her daughter, Melissa Rae Koppel, to an opioid overdose.

“My daughter passed away in 2013 and I believe my first series was in 2014 after she died,” Hirsh said.

Noting opioid abuse garnered little publicity prior to her daughter’s death, Hirsh said, at the time, it wasn’t yet an epidemic.

“If you go back prior to 2013 and try to find articles or news stories on the epidemic – on the opioid problem – they’re not there,” Hirsh said.

She has held this conference to spread awareness in the community.

Brian Amkraut, who is the executive director of the Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, asked Hirsh to provide continuing education credit for the conference.

Hirsh said she has long thought it would be useful for those working on this epidemic to “get to know each other.”

“I always felt that attorneys should understand what doctors are doing, doctors should understand what the attorneys are doing and so on and so forth,” Hirsh said. “If everybody knows what each other is doing, they can all have a little bit of an idea of the process and then work on best practices all the way around. I decided that this was my chance to get everybody in one room.”

Speakers will include doctors, nurses, psychologists, judges and lawyers who are on the front lines of the epidemic. They will analyze and assess what works to help those suffering from the disease of addiction and how the system can be updated so that this problem is not perpetuated.

“Obviously I became involved because of personal experience,” Hirsh said of the epidemic. “But I feel that, with this many people dying, how can anybody not be paying attention to that?”

Speakers include: Justin Herdman, U.S. Attorney Northern District of Ohio; Patti London, Lawyer, Public Defender’s Office; Brian Hoffman, lawyer, Public Defender’s Office; Judge Joan Synenberg, Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals and Recovery Court.

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