Overdose awareness event comes at a fitting time

Published 1:53 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2022


Contributing columnist

According to the Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky drug overdose deaths rose 14.6 percent in 2021. A total of 2,250 Kentuckians are no longer with us because of drug overdoses. We lost 16 Boyle County residents to drug overdoses in 2021. Our county’s numbers, too, were higher than in 2020. The fatality numbers are only a small part of the painful story – nonfatal overdoses represent many EMS runs, hospital emergency room visits, and challenging anxiety and stress for families.

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It is particularly fitting, then, that we once again hold an International Overdose Awareness event in Boyle County this year. Begun in 2001 in Melbourne, Australia, International Overdose Awareness Day events have been occurring around the world on, or near the date of August 31. We have held our own county events since 2016, using the international theme of “A Time to Remember, A Time to Act”.

That theme is important and was carefully chosen by the original organizers. Remembering and grieving the loss of loved ones who have died, regardless of the cause of death, is critical to individual and community healing. Unfortunately, the stigma around substance use disorder, and related mental health disorders, is still a barrier, to people being able to share and express their grief of losing a loved one to an overdose. Safe spaces to openly grieve, and to honor the lives of those lost, rather than only focusing on how they died, are too few. Thus, the opportunity to remember and acknowledge losses is a part of Overdose Awareness events.

“A Time to Act” is included in the theme from the international planners, to bring action and hope to a community. Everyone can make a difference in this worldwide fight to save lives from drug overdoses.

In Boyle County, we have seen a large percentage of local citizens be trained in using Narcan – otherwise known as Naloxone – to know what to do to reverse an opioid overdose when it happens. Some of them are folks who live with, or are otherwise closely associated with, someone in active addiction, or in recovery from an opioid use disorder. Some of them are living with someone who is legally prescribed an opioid, but who may accidentally take too much of the medication. And, perhaps the best example of community change in a positive direction, is that some of them know that an overdose can occur anywhere, and that they can actually help save the life of a stranger, by knowing what to do and carrying Narcan.

Action to combat drug addiction includes understanding it to be a disease, and knowing where to refer someone for help. It also includes avoiding stigmatizing language about people with addictions, and advocacy for supports and services which treat addiction and build recovery support, provide harm reduction services, prevent addiction before it starts, and enforce the removal of harmful substances from the community. All community members can be part of actions that lead to positive outcomes.

We have great local examples of individuals making a difference.

Our local International Overdose Awareness event is planned for August 31, at 7:00 PM, at the Vision Church of Holiness, 704 Holiday Drive, Danville. Sponsors include: Boyle County ASAP, Spero Health, Isaiah House/REAL HOPE, Shepherds House, Hope Network, and Vision Church of Holiness. This hour of our community life together will include speakers, resource information, a candlelight vigil and balloon release in memory of those lost, food, and free Narcan. For more information, contact Kathy Miles at kathy.miles@centre.edu. Everyone is welcome. As we know from our knowledge of addiction and recovery, isolation is not the answer – hope comes from joining together and building strength for the future through mutual support and cooperation.

Kathy L. Miles is coordinator for the Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy.