WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ohio –
International overdose awareness day is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose. On August 31st, we pause and remember, without stigma, those who have died from drug overdose, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind. This day is preserved to remember, and a campaign to act to end overdose.
When we think of drug addiction, stigma may lead us to think of people who have thrown their lives away, made poor choices, are homeless, or have no support system from taxing and abusing relationships. Drug addiction is often a result of trauma, childhood abuse, introduction to opioids after an accident or chronic illness, untreated mental health diagnosis, or a combination of various risk factors. Nonetheless, drug addiction affects our parents, our children, nieces, nephews, friends, and sometimes ourselves. Drug addiction is not 100% preventable, or we would not have those struggling with substance use disorders. However, drug overdose deaths are preventable.
The nation’s COVID-19 pandemic made the nation’s drug overdose epidemic worse. Every state reported a spike or increase in overdose deaths or mental health crisis during the pandemic. The data is tragic, yet not surprising. For many, isolation and fear exacerbated underlying mental health challenges. Coping with substance use, and misuse, led to many relapses. Over the past 18 months, many of our loved ones did not see recovery again, leaving our families and our community devastated from the unnecessary losses. Yet here we are, with the pandemic still enduring, and the number of overdose deaths still increasing.
At least 5,215 Ohioans fatally overdosed on drugs in 2020, which is a 22% increase over 2019 data (Ohio Capital Journal, 2021). The health system and behavioral health providers have expanded services and began telehealth in efforts to reach those who need services. There can be a barrier to connecting individuals suffering with substance use disorder to treatment, and getting them to stay engaged with treatment services is often beyond our control, despite our best efforts to offer access and support recovery.
Linda Sistrunk, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Memorial Health Systems reflects, “We have seen an increase in substance use and mental health crisis, with notable cause being loneliness, unemployment, and family discontent with change in routine. We have also witnessed how strong the human spirit can be and have noticed an increase in people willingly seeking help, openly discussing how hard this crisis has been for them, and following up with recommendations that will help them through these trying times.”
To bring awareness to drug overdose, empathize with the grief of families who have lost loved ones, and educate the community on how to be actively involved in reducing overdose deaths, the Washington County Behavioral Health Board, The Right Path for Washington County, and the Washington County Health Department are collaborating to host a remembrance and awareness walk.
The community will gather on Saturday, August 28th, 2021. The walk starts promptly at 9 a.m. and will begin at the corner of Front Street and East Muskingum Park in Marietta, Ohio. The path for the walk will go across the Putnam Street Bridge, down Gilman Avenue, across the Washington Street Bridge and back to East Muskingum Park.
The Health Department will educate community members on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose, and how to administer nasal naloxone, known as Narcan (prescription medication used to reverse the effects of a known or suspected opioid overdose, evident by emergency signs of breathing problems, severe sleepiness, or not being able to respond). Family members, friends, or bystanders, may use Narcan to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose until emergency assistance can arrive. Free Narcan and training will be available to community members in the East Muskingum Park.
Community members are encouraged to bring pictures and homemade signs to share their loved one’s stories. We look forward to you joining us there!
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with a mental health challenge or substance use disorder, reach out for help.
Local Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder Treatment Providers
- Family Counseling & Rehabilitation Center (Marietta, OH): 740-249-8061
- Hopewell Health Center (Belpre, OH): 740-423-8095
- Call Mondays & Wednesdays between 8AM-11AM for available Walk-In Hours
- Integrated Services for Behavioral Health (Marietta, OH): 1-800-321-8293
- Life and Purpose Behavioral Health (Marietta, Belpre, & Beverly, OH): 740-376-0930
- Walk-In Hours Monday through Friday 8AM-1PM
- Rigel Recovery Services (Reno, OH): 740-371-5160
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ohio –
In April of 2020 I wrote an article on relapse after our oldest son began using Heroin after 10 years of abstinence. Although it has been hard to share his addiction story, I felt then, and still feel now, that those in the trenches with their loved ones need to know they are not alone. Those living with mental illness and/or addiction have a very powerful story to share; a story that may save someone’s life. These are stories of hope, even when it feels hopeless.
During the COVID 19 pandemic we have continued to experience an epidemic within a pandemic, with overdose and suicide rates increasing. According to the CDC “over 81,000 overdose deaths occurred in the US in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12 month period. The latest numbers suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic.”
Anxiety, feelings of helplessness have also contributed to increased drug use and suicide rates. Sepsis and endocarditis deaths have increased during the pandemic as people struggling with mental illness and addiction may not be accessing health care and when they finally do it may be too late. My son was hospitalized for 2 rounds of sepsis and endocarditis, an infection around his heart, just days before his fatal overdose.
The CDC recommends 5 key strategies to prevent drug misuse, overdoses and death: using data to monitor emerging trends and enhance prevention; work with providers and health systems to reduce unsafe exposure to opioids and treat addiction; strengthen state and local capacity to respond to this epidemic; coordinate with public safety and community-based partners to rapidly identify overdose threats, reverse overdoses, link people to EFFECTIVE treatment and reduce harms associated with illicit opioids and finally increase public awareness about the risks.
We can all play a role; not all overdoses have to end in death. Learn about the risks; learn about Naloxone (NARCAN), its availability and how to use it. Help those struggling find the right care and treatment. Learn about the CDC’s overdose surveillance and prevention efforts in our community. Learn more about what may help if you or someone you love is increasing drug use during our COVID 19 pandemic.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has seen some success with emergency department administered high-dose buprenorphine, a food and drug approved medication to treat opioid disorder. This approach helps with withdrawal and allows underserved populations to seek outpatient services in commonly encountered delays in access to follow up care. This is promising and data may give us hope.
My son lost his battle with addiction 1/31/21. My hope is that by sharing his story his death will not be in vain.
The Right Path for Washington County and the Washington County Health Board are hosting a National Overdose and National Grief Awareness Walk on Saturday August 28. We will gather on the corner of East Muskingum Park next to the Putnam Street Bridge at 9 am. We will walk across the bridge, down Gilman Avenue, across the Washington Street Bridge and back. The Washington County Health Department’s Project DAWN will be on hand with Naloxone kits (NARCAN) and how to use it to save lives. Far too many lives have been lost to overdose, this epidemic inside the pandemic. No Mother should lose her Son to overdose; so preventable. I know; Jason’s Mom 1/31/21 #4everbroken.
Please join us and share a picture or memory of your loved one! Say Their Name.
Cathy HarperLearn More