Jam Session: Opioid Crisis from the Inside

Originally published by Highwire Daze


Thomas Sandgaard of the Sandgaard foundation speaking about opioid crisis at Jam Session panel

Thomas Sandgaard speaking about the opioid crisis.


Sometimes when people circle up and open up, it rocks. While we often think of a jam session as a ritual for musicians, it turns out the format has much to offer corporate leaders, professionals from other industries and concerned citizens, who are all seeking to understand and make a difference in the opioid crisis gripping our communities and our nation.


The Sandgaard Foundation is a charitable foundation that seeks to address the opioid epidemic by helping fund initiatives that save lives from opioid overdose, helps people escape the cycle of relapse and supports victims and their families. Thomas Sandgaard, a musician and CEO of a medical device company that is an alternative to opioids, started the foundation in 2018 because he wanted to help shake up the establishment and to help industry leaders “band together” to find new, bold solutions.


In the past year, the foundation has conducted and released research findings and funded a few pilot programs. And now, Sandgaard is leading the way on another part of the mission: creating non-traditional coalitions and changing the conversation around pain and the shame and isolation that bring people to opioids and keeps them there.

Thomas Sandgaard of the Sandgaard Foundation and National Recovery advocate and author Ryan Hampton at Jam Session panel

Thomas Sandgaard with national recovery advocate and author Ryan Hampton.


In October, the Foundation hosted its first jam session of industry leaders–a panel called “Inside the Opioid Crisis with Ryan Hampton.” There, in a tavern outside of Denver, the participants expressed themselves and nodded along as they felt the grooves of raw realities and honesty not often spoken in public settings.


Hampton, a renowned author and national recovery expert, was the featured guest who recounted the harrowing story of his journey from the White House to the streets and back. Then the conversation expanded to examine America’s opioid crisis with a panel of industry experts and business leaders, including Hampton, Sandgaard and Dr. Don Stader, an emergency physician at the Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado.

Thomas Sandgaard of the Sandgaard foundation speaking about opioid crisis as Ryan Hampton looks on at Jam Session panel

Thomas Sandgaard speaking as Ryan Hampton looks on.


Among the many poignant exchanges, Hampton mused about addiction in America: “There will never be a supply problem in this country, but there’s a demand problem that we have to deal with,” he said. “We have to get these people the help they need.


Then, in a pivotal moment of the afternoon, Dr. Stader explained his realization that he and his colleagues had been unwittingly prescribing opioids too hastily for those coming into the emergency room with acute pain. He turned to Hampton and offered a heartfelt apology.


“How do we get out of the opioid epidemic?” Dr. Stader then asked the assembled participants. “There’s a one-word answer: together.”


Other notable industry leaders who attended and shared their stories included Andrew Burki, chief public policy officer of The Hanley Foundation; José Esquibel, associate director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention; Christy Hartsell, vice president of the Truth Initiative; Carrie Radant, office of advancement for the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; and Justin Riley, executive director of Young People in Recovery.