There were years in which Portsmouth and Scioto County felt alone in the war against drug abuse. Those times have changed.
“We certainly have plenty of company now,” Lisa Roberts, RN of the Portsmouth City Health Department, said. “We’re not the only ones anymore. It has pretty much become a nationwide problem.”
There will be a Scioto County Overdose Awareness Event Wednesday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Fastop Market located at 1735 Eighth St., in Portsmouth. The Portsmouth City Health Department will join many other organizations in the U.S. and abroad by hosting an event for International Overdose Awareness Day. The purpose of International Overdose Awareness Day is to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose. Overdose Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable and communities can take measures to reduce these unnecessary losses.
One of the most amazing recent statistics came out of southwestern Ohio, 174 overdoses in six days in Cincinnati.
“It’s going on all over the place actually,” Roberts said. “Cincinnati was really bad, but within the last two weeks there has actually been some more occurrences in Huntington, West Virginia; Mansfield, Ohio; Akron, Ohio; Mt. Sterling, Kentucky.”
There were 13 cases reported last Tuesday in Jennings County, Indiana., 12 were reported on Wednesday in Montgomery County, Kentucky, and 29 overdoses linked to free samples of heroin, marked with a Batman symbol, were reported between Tuesday and Thursday in Camden, New Jersey. Ohio’s fatal overdose rate climbed by 20 percent last year, after going up by 17 percent the year before.
“This increase in overdoses also highlights the need to quickly implement my Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act, which was recently signed into law,” U.S. Senator Rob Portman said. “When fully implemented, CARA will increase the availability of Naloxone and training for law enforcement and our first responders, and it will provide new resources to give patients more treatment and recovery options, which are needed now more than ever before. I am going to continue pushing the Obama administration to implement CARA as quickly as possible, and I will continue to fight to secure additional resources to help our local communities address this deadly epidemic.”
Roberts said Wednesday’s event has been well planned.
“It’s a day of remembrance, a day of awareness, and also a day for people to find out how to prevent overdose,” Roberts said. “We usually have a lot of different groups that come together and some of those are treatment facilities.”
A lot of the overdoses are being blamed on the addition of Fentanyl to batches of heroin.
“If it’s Fentanyl and Carfentanyl, those things are 10,000 times stronger than regular heroin,” Roberts said. “They’re also putting it in pills, or what looks like pills, and users usually have no idea.”
Wednesday’s event is also an opportunity to educate policymakers and the public about a variety of proven solutions, such as “911 Good Samaritan” laws and the life-saving opiate overdose reversal medication, naloxone.
“You’ve got to remember, four in five of people today who start using heroin began their opioid addiction on these prescription opioids. The problem and responsibility doesn’t start today with the stereotypical criminal street dealer. We basically created this problem with legally manufactured drugs that were legally prescribed,” Roberts said. “So the face of misuse and addiction has also changed, since many people become addicted due to a medical event. Senior citizens taking pain medication are also overdosing, as are younger people. It has crossed into all aspects of society and has been determined to be a national epidemic.”
There will be free food and music at Scioto County’s International Overdose Awareness Day event and everyone is welcome. Numerous local agencies will be there to do outreach and to educate the public and offer services.
At noon, the health department encourages all to take part in an awareness and memorial March. Participants are encouraged to carry photos of their lost loved ones or create and carry signs.
“We want everyone to be aware that overdose is preventable,” Roberts said. “There’s numerous risk factors for it. One of which is, people who have a substance abuse disorder. Others are people who are on high doses of prescription pain medication even for legitimate reasons. So we want people to know that it is preventable and we want people to know if people do have a substance abuse disorder, help is available. They have treatment options. We now have our Recovery Gateway here at the Health Department and we actually help people get into addiction treatment facilities, based on their needs.”
She said Narcan is now available without a prescription at CVS and Kroger and it is covered by insurance. She want on to say it is taking multiple doses of Narcan to reverse the overdoses caused by Fentanyl and Carfentanyl.
For more information about the event contact Lisa Roberts R.N. at 740-354-8943 or join the Facebook event “Scioto County International Overdose Awareness Day 2016”.
Learn more about International Overdose Awareness Day at: http://www.overdoseday.com/
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.