Since 2011, more people have died in the U.S. from drugs than traffic accidents, according to statistics.
With people dying of drug overdoses, many more being arrested for drugs, a jump in hepatitis C cases linked to drug use and police continuing to find used drug needles in public places, clearly, there is a problem in Jackson County, said Brenda Turner, president of the Jackson County Drug-Free Council, and it’s going to take the community working together to find a solution.
One important step is changing the mentality that drug addiction is a crime, when it needs to be treated as a mental and physical illness, she said. There needs to be more support in place locally for those facing drug addiction, she said.
To shed light on the impact drugs have, to give hope to those using drugs or who have used and to support those who have lost family members and friends to drugs, the drug-free council is organizing a public observance of International Overdose Awareness Day.
At 7 p.m. Aug. 31, a candle-lighting ceremony will be conducted at One Chamber Square in downtown Seymour next to the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce building.
Everyone is invited to attend to show support for those with drug addictions, those who have battled drug addiction before and for people to remember those who have died from a drug overdose.
The idea is for the community to come together in a positive way, Turner said, not to point fingers of blame or to ridicule or shame.
“This event is organized on the understanding that no one feels shame or disgrace over a drug overdose,” she said.
Drug-free council members will hand out silver ribbons for people to wear in a show of solidarity in the fight against drugs.
“The silver ribbon is the universal symbol for awareness of overdose and its effects,” Turner said. “Wearing silver honors a life lost too soon to drugs.”
Turner said she wants the ceremony to send a strong message to people who are using drugs or have in the past.
“Their lives are valued,” she said. “No one should ever die from a preventable drug overdose.”
She also wants the day to remind people that overdoses don’t always involve illegal drugs but more frequently are a result of prescription drugs and painkillers.
“No one is immune to overdose,” she said. “Painkillers and other pharmacy drugs play an important medical role, but their careless use can have tragic long-term consequences.”
Dawn Goodman-Martin, a mental health and clinical addiction counselor and therapist at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, hopes to see a change in Jackson County. She also is a part of the drug-free council.
She said people should not be blamed for their drug addiction but should be held responsible for getting the help they need.
“The disease of addiction may not be a choice, but prevention of the management of the disease is,” she said.
As part of raising drug overdose awareness and helping save lives, the drug-free council also is encouraging people to download an Overdose Aware app on their smartphones.
The app explains what an overdose is, overdose symptoms for stimulants, depressants, alcohol and opioids, what to do if you suspect someone has overdosed and what can happen after someone has a drug overdose.
What: International Overdose Awareness Day candle-lighting ceremony, organized by the Jackson County Drug-Free Council
Where: One Chamber Square in downtown Seymour next to the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce building
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 31
Information: Contact Brenda Turner at 812-216-2229 or at firstname.lastname@example.org