Shepherd Snyder Published

W.Va. Recovery Groups Organize Overdose Awareness Events

Leah Hill, a behavioral health fellow with the Baltimore City Health Department, displays a sample of Narcan nasal spray in Baltimore.

Events are planned across West Virginia for International Overdose Awareness Day this week. Observed every Aug. 31, it’s an annual campaign that acknowledges those that have died from overdose.

Organizations like the Jefferson Day Report Center in Ranson and the Potomac Highlands Guild in Petersburg are recognizing the day by giving Narcan training and education materials to their communities.

They are two of four towns in the state with organizations officially partnering with the event, according to its website. The Pocahontas County Day Report in Marlinton is also planning an “Overdose Awareness Color Walk” this Friday, and the Potomac Highlands Guild also hosted a similar event at the Moorefield Town Park last Saturday.

Jefferson Day Report Center Executive Director Kelly Franklin says it’s a way to engage with locals to destigmatize those struggling with addiction.

“It’s generational. It’s traumatic. So there’s some other things there that we’re trying to address and educate the community,” Franklin said.

Organizations who are not directly affiliated with International Overdose Awareness Day are also preparing for similar events.

Brandon Whitehouse, who operates the West Virginia Collegiate Recovery Program at Concord University, is preparing for similar initiatives at the school as the start of National Recovery Month begins in September.

The Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center in nearby Princeton is also set for an awareness event marking the beginning of the month.

“People with substance use disorder are people and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. And we know they can get better, they can be productive,” Whitehouse said.

West Virginia is at the center of the opioid crisis – in 2020, the CDC reported the state has the highest overdose death rate in the country, with 81 deaths per 100,000 members of the population. The crisis was federally declared a public health emergency in 2017.

Earlier this month, Gov. Jim Justice announced a proclamation declaring Aug. 27 West Virginia Overdose Awareness day. In 2020, a resolution was also created by Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey to recognize the day in the U.S. Senate every Aug. 31, with Sen. Joe Manchin as one of the resolution’s sponsors.

Information about International Overdose Awareness Day events in West Virginia is available on the organization’s website.