On Saturday, March 25, thousands of people gathered in Portsmouth’s Spartan Stadium for “Ohio’s National March Against Heroin”. The event featured live music, entertainment, and many prominent national speakers as well as local recovery advocates. Throughout the day, speakers and performing artists took the stage to offer support and encouragement to this community that has been hard hit by opiate addiction.
Addiction treatment agencies conducted education and outreach and also offered scholarships for people in need of addiction treatment. Several people took advantage of the scholarships that included treatment and transportation to some of the country’s top addiction treatment centers. Although the event was free, it generated some funding through raffles and donations that was used to offset some associated costs and transport clients to out-of-state treatment centers.
At 2:30 p.m., hundreds of people walked through Portsmouth on the march that was led by the Portsmouth Fire Department. The crowd was followed by the “Heroin Hearse,” a fully decorated hearse dedicated to raising awareness about the severity of the overdose epidemic and serves as a visual reminder of what heroin use offers — a last ride. “Ohio’s National March Against Heroin” was planned and conducted by people in recovery from addiction. Families who have lost loved ones in the past carried photos and posters.
Two local girls, Sarah Gee and Kortney Calver, worked with recovery organizations across the country to make the event successful. Both are in recovery from addiction and understand the seriousness of opiate dependency. Both say that the event exceeded all expectations and they hope to make it an annual event.
One thing they felt that was important was to help the Fire Department obtain more Narcan since they are responding to many overdoses daily and the medication that can save someone from dying is in short supply. So after paying off the necessary expenses associated with the event, they decided to use the remaining money to purchase Narcan.
They brought in almost $900 to donate to the Portsmouth City Health Department to buy Narcan for the Fire Department.
“This is just so amazing,” Lisa Roberts, RN, of the Portsmouth City Health Department said. “We go through a lot of this medication locally and it is a struggle to keep up with the need. I can’t even put into words how very proud I am of our recovery community and these girls for doing this. It’s just so noble. No doubt, they will save lives with this donation. You hear people say all the time that this opioid epidemic must be solved at the community level. That the government isn’t going to solve it. This is an example of one part of the community that is really stepping up to help—the recovery community.”
Project DAWN — Deaths Avoided With Naloxone — is operated by the Portsmouth City Health Department and provides education and medication to anyone who may need to respond to an overdose. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is also available at CVS and Kroger Pharmacies without a prescription and is covered by most insurances. Ohio’s laws now offer protection to people who respond to an overdose through a Good Samaritan Law and after using Narcan, people should still call 911 for more advanced medical assistance.