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Community Group Shares Hope

The GPF Foundation Spreads the Message of Harm Reduction.

Article by Michael Beightol

Photography by Graham Blus

Originally published in SW Lake Lifestyle

It was the kind of news no parent wanted to hear that changed the lives of Nancy and Ross Friedman. Their son Greg, a vibrant and successful 27-year-old, had passed away. The events leading up to Greg’s death in 2017 have since propelled the Lake County couple, with loving support from family and friends, to help other families avoid the same kind of tragedy they experienced.

The Friedmans co-founded the GPF Foundation, a not-for-profit organization committed to saving lives by supporting education, appropriate treatment and overall awareness of the dangers related to recreational drug use.

The Foundation operates on parallel and complementary tracks: Provide education to allow young adults to learn about the risks associated with recreational drug use, and develop research-driven training tools for first-responders, medical students, physicians, and doctors.

In the years since its founding the GPF Foundation has made considerable strides, including:

  • Developing harm reduction community events held on college campuses, as well as in coffee shops, high school classrooms and suburban living rooms.
  • The launch of a training program, shared via a medical simulation app, to teach medical personnel and med school students how to correctly diagnose and treat patients suffering from drug-induced psychosis. To date, nearly 140,000 nurses, doctors and students have completed the online class, thanks to a partnership between the GPF Foundation and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science.
  • Publication of research articles in medical journals and periodicals, including a special issue of the medical journal, Pediatric Annals, so that pediatric and adolescent health care providers have practical knowledge to perform substance-use screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment to help reduce drug-related morbidity and mortality among adolescents.
  • The debut of a first responder training program in Lake County that helps police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians identify when a patient is having a drug-induced medical crisis. To date, the training has been held at Glencoe Public Safety, Mundelein Police Department and C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team) of Lake County.

A long-time partner is Lake County’s only medical college, Rosalind Franklin University, where every year a new class of Foundation Fellows are selected to work on scientific projects, as well as lead training programs. Interns are also selected annually, drawn from campuses that include Lake Forest College and University of Wisconsin (Madison).

This year the GPF Foundation is developing new programs, including gamifying a training program to spread the word about harm reduction to gamers and young adults so that they are fully aware of the risks from recreational drugs.

The Foundation’s main fundraiser is an Annual Event held each of the last six years (including a virtual event during the pandemic shutdown). In 2023 the theme was “An Evening of Enlightenment” that featured a keynote address by author Don Winslow, the winner of many writer’s awards who has seen his novels turned into TV series and motion pictures. Of note is Winslow’s border trilogy, a collection of novels that examine the devastating impact that the cartels have had on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border.

Winslow captivated the audience of 200 supporters with a nuanced talk that reflects his heavily researched novels best described as fact-based fiction. Topics ranged from the War on Drugs, the impact of drug adulterants such as fentanyl, and the importance of grassroots local organizations, including the GPF Foundation.

Prior to his appearance at the Sixth Annual Event, Winslow spoke with a local journalist in a Zoom interview: “Pessimism isn’t an option,” he said. “I do see hope and I see it in a lot of places. I see tremendous hope in the coming generations. I see hope in the sort of organizations {that include the GPF Foundation} that are looking at a problem, tackling it fearlessly and with honesty and openness. So, these are all reasons for hope. So yeah, I’m optimistic about the future.”

Learn more by visiting GPFFoundation.org, including seeing an exclusive 4-part video interview series with Don Winslow.

The GPF Foundation is a Lake County based not-for-profit that is dedicated to saving lives through harm reduction efforts, both educational and medical.

To date, nearly 140,000 nurses, doctors and students have completed an online class based on Greg Friedman's case, thanks to a partnership between the GPF Foundation and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science.

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