Overdose Awareness Vigil to be Held on Aug. 31

Posted Thursday, August 25, 2022.

HUNTINGTON – For a second straight year, the Huntington community will gather on International Overdose Awareness Day to remember those who have died from overdose.

A vigil will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, August 31, at Hier’s Park, located at 547 S. Briant St. Its purpose is to remember lives lost, offer support to those impacted by addiction and champion hope for the future.

“There is much stigma surrounding addiction and that stigma also impacts loved ones of persons with substance use disorder. Find a safe person or group where you feel comfortable sharing your journey so you are not navigating this alone,” recommends Brittany Renkenberger, executive director for Place of Grace, one of the community organizations hosting the remembrance.

Local recovery providers will be at Wednesday evening’s vigil with a common purpose of making connections with members of the community who have been impacted by addiction and overdose. Community partnerships between local agencies that were forged during last year’s event have helped focus local efforts on addressing the issue.

“Those connections lead to increased awareness and collaboration, which, in turn, lead to better outcomes for those in addiction and those impacted by addiction,” Renkenberger said.

Alongside of those efforts, Huntington County Community Corrections has worked to launch a treatment-focused recovery program through the O’Donnell Center at Victory Noll.

Overdoses and overdose deaths have risen sharply in recent years across the country, and Huntington County is no exception. There were 22 overdose deaths in 2021 and 11 overdose deaths in 2020 in Huntington County, according to Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) data.

Huntington County averaged about five overdose deaths per year over the preceding four years.

Overdose deaths in Indiana surged 319 percent between 1999 and 2020, according to IDOH. Another 2,554 Indiana residents died from overdose in 2021.

Nationally, more than 932,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of national overdose deaths topped 107,000 in 2021 alone.

Data for 2022 is pending, but local recovery providers, law enforcement and medical professionals say they’ve experienced a continued increase in overdoses this year related to fentanyl and abuse of other opioids.

“Like in 2021, the overdose occurrences we are seeing are largely attributed to illicit fentanyl use. Fentanyl is a highly addictive substance that is believed to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine,” Renkenberger said.

Andy Ellet, administrative captain for the Huntington Police Department, said that officers have administered naloxone after being called to a suspected overdose 17 times between January 1 and August 10. Often known by its brand name Narcan, naloxone can reverse the life-threatening respiratory failure that is usually the cause of overdose deaths. A law passed in 2015 by the Indiana General Assembly allows citizens to carry naloxone and administer it to a person experiencing an opioid overdose.

Naloxone is dispensed throughout the state by registered entities under a statewide naloxone standing order issued by IDOH. For a list of locations where naloxone is available, visit optin.in.gov.

In addition to International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, the City of Huntington will recognize September as National Recovery Month to raise awareness of recovery resources available in our community.

“It is important to know what resources are available for your loved one to be prepared to connect them to effective recovery solutions when they are ready,” Renkenberger said.

Local recovery resources can be found at www.in.gov/fssa/addiction or by calling 211.

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