This August 31 marks the 19th International Overdose Awareness Day, started in Melbourne, Australia, in 2001. Sally Finn, a manager of the Salvation Army syringe program, saw the sorrow that families experienced when they lost their loved ones to a drug overdose. When she realized that the families were unable to express their grief due to the stigma of drug use, Sally arranged an event that would allow families to commemorate the memories of their departed loved ones. Six thousand ribbons were distributed that day, and the awareness day has been supported every year since then.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), there are several ways to make a difference on this global event day:
• Hold a candlelight vigil.
• Offer an educational program, such as one related to preventing opioid use, in partnership with a local organization.
• Provide a safe space for telling the stories of overdose victims.
• Offer a large canvas and washable paint so survivors can add a handprint in memory of their loved one.
• Display empty hats or shoes to represent the number of lives lost in the community.
• Use the NSC Community Action Kit as a planning guide.
• Become a Safety Ambassador by hosting a community fundraising event.
• Access the NSC Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NatlSafetyCouncil/) to get a purple frame for your Facebook profile image.
• Share the NCS Facebook Live virtual candlelight vigil on August 30.
• Add the name of a loved one who died of an opioid overdose to the “Celebrating Lost Loved Ones” map.
• Purchase or create purple wristbands, pins, shirts, or other items to be worn on August 31.
• Research state and federal legislation that addresses opioid overdose prevention, and write to your representative.
• Support NSC (/forms/donate) efforts to end the opioid crisis by making a gift in honor of a loved one.
In Allegany County the agency that deals with preventing opioid use is the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc.(ACASA). ACASA handles opioid use through education programs that the Prevention staff present in the local schools to educate our young people. ACASA offers treatment programs through the clinic to help the community with opioid use.
ACASA, Partners for Prevention in Allegany County(PPAC) and the Sheriff’s Office offers and promotes the Take It To the Box program, which gives community members places to dispose of their unwanted or unused medications. The Take It To the Box locations are throughout Allegany County at: Alfred Pharmacy, Alfred State’s University Police(Theta Gamma House), the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office, Cuba Police Department, Fillmore Pharmacy, Friendship Pharmacy, Jones Memorial Hospital, Jones Memorial Medical Practice in Bolivar, Nicholson Pharmacy, and the Wellsville Police Department.
Twice a year these three agencies also participate in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s(DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back Days, offering two more locations in the community to drop off medications. Take It To the Box and the biannual pill drops have had over a million dollars in street value of medications turned in by the community. For more information on ACASA’s Prevention Department and Clinic visit http://www.alleganycouncil.org. For more information on PPAC and the Take It To the Box program visit http://www.ppaccentral.org.