Health Care Hero fights opioid epidemic by connecting community groups

Health Care Hero fights opioid epidemic by connecting community groups

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Olivia Herndon was named a 2017 Health Care Hero by the Greater Business Wilmington Journal, being recognized for her efforts to bring community stakeholders together to address the opioid epidemic, with a special focus on mental health.

Herndon works as the director of mental health and the co-director of continuing education at the South East Area Health Education Center at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

The key to getting leaders in healthcare, law enforcement, religion, transportation, and politics to work together is taking time to build deep connections, according to Herndon.

"I think the secret is establishing rapport with folks and truly building those relationships so that they do want to work with you and work with each other," Herndon said.

Her colleague, Dr. Joseph Pino, nominated Herndon for the award.

"She has the ability to convene people, and that is not quite as easy as one would imagine," Pino said. "Olivia has passion for reducing harm from opioids, and for folks who are struggling with mental health challenges. And she brings that to the table each and every day."

Herndon's interest in mental health and substance abuse began in college and continued after graduation.

"My very first job was at the behavioral health hospital here at New Hanover Regional Medical Center," Herndon said. "That definitely solidified that I wanted to work in this area of mental health and substance abuse."

Herndon describes her role as a bridge-builder and a connector.

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