Proclamation, Vigil to Raise Awareness of Local Drug Overdoses

Posted Thursday, August 26, 2021.

HUNTINGTON – Huntington’s Place of Grace will host an Overdose Awareness Vigil at 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 31, at Sunken Gardens in Memorial Park, and Mayor Richard Strick will read a proclamation Monday, August 30, raising awareness of drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation services in our community.

Place of Grace Executive Director Brittany Renkenberger said there has been an “insurgence” of drug overdose deaths in our community, state and country – a problem that has been made worse under the strain of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“We will be hosting the Overdose Awareness Vigil to share resources from local substance abuse treatment providers, provide information and awareness regarding the issues of overdose and substance abuse, and offer members of our community who have been impacted by an overdose death the opportunity to remember and honor their loved one,” Renkenberger said.

An Indiana Department of Health report from June 2021 titled “Drug Overdose Epidemic in Indiana: Behind the Numbers” showed a sharp increase in Indiana’s overdose death rate from 1999 through 2017. The rate fell slightly in 2018 before surpassing peak levels in 2019, and estimates for 2020 and 2021 predict record levels of overdose deaths. Prescription and synthetic opioids were a key driver behind the increase, the report found, and Indiana consistently ranked in the top half of U.S. states and territories for the highest drug overdose rates since 2013.

Indiana’s age-adjusted drug overdose rate was 26.6 per 100,000 in 2019, the report continued, significantly higher than the national rate of 21.6 per 100,000. More than 15,000 Indiana residents have died from a drug overdose since 1999.                                                                                         

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2,268 Hoosiers died of drug overdoses in 2020, up from a then-record 1,904 deaths in 2019. Nationwide, an estimated 93,331 people died of drug overdoses in 2020, shattering the previous record of 72,151 deaths in 2019. The CDC reports a 450 percent overall increase in overdose deaths since 1999.

Locally, substance abuse treatment providers, health officials and law enforcement agencies echo concerns that Huntington County also is seeing more overdose deaths than ever before. The Indiana Department of Health reports five Huntington County residents died from on overdose in 2019, with another five overdose deaths in the first six months alone of 2020, the most recent time frame for which official data is available.

“Anecdotal evidence from local law enforcement, emergency room personnel and local recovery residences suggest an increased amount of persons overdosing and subsequent overdose deaths (in 2021),” Renkenberger, the Place of Grace executive director, said. “Local law enforcement and ER staff have reported to myself and board members a significant increase in persons transported to the ER due to overdose, and several fatal overdoses.”

Renkenberger added that those who struggle with addiction, or those who have a friend or family member who struggles, have several places locally to turn for help. Indiana’s 211 hotline also can connect residents with drug abuse treatment services.

Men’s Residential Recovery Homes

  • Harmony Home, (260) 355-9400
  • Indiana Dream Center, (260) 366-3641

Women’s Residential Recovery Homes

  • Place of Grace, (260) 358-7529
  • Huntington House, (260) 358-0748
  • Life House, (260) 200-1372
  • Remnant Ministries, (260) 388-6020

Outpatient Substance Abuse Services

  • Bowen Center, (260) 356-2875
  • Indiana Dream Center, (260) 366-3641
  • Ground Zero Community Center, (260) 200-1900

Juvenile Substance Abuse Services

  • Youth Services Bureau, (260) 356-9681
  • Bowen Center, (260) 356-2875

In Monday’s proclamation, Mayor Strick will look to draw attention toward supports and resources being developed through local community partnerships, such as a treatment-focused recovery program at the O’Donnell Center on the campus of Victory Noll.

“Addiction and overdosing are problems that have hurt many households in our community. Nearly every person I’ve met has a story of a loved one or neighbor they’re worried about,” Mayor Strick said. “Our hope is to continue building partnerships throughout our community so individuals living here get the support and accountability they need to overcome the addiction they’re fighting.”  

Place of Grace provides long-term recovery services in a therapeutic home setting to help women break cycles of addiction, abuse and poverty. Learn more about the organization at www.placeofgracehuntington.com.


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