Last week Evergreen Health hosted two events for International Overdose Awareness Day (Aug. 31), where we asked members of the community to join us in remembrance of those we’ve lost, to learn about what an overdose is and how to prevent it, and to learn about how to combat the opioid epidemic.
What are opioids?
Opioids are medications that relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. Medications that fall within this class include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and related drugs.
We heard powerful voices during these conversations; Evergreen’s staff told stories of clients that we’ve lost and helped, clients themselves told stories of loss and hope, community members came to recall the vitality of their loved ones before the epidemic took them, and political leaders joined us to listen and discuss the first steps our government is taking to stop this growing epidemic.
Many members of the community came to remember their loved ones and warn against denial; asking the audience to not fall victim to the falsely belief that the epidemic won’t affect you personally. In Erie County alone, the epidemic claims roughly 10 lives a week, stealing potential from our community, clawing back population gains, and leaving dozens of family members in grief at the loss of their mother, father, son, daughter, best friends – the list goes on. The sudden, and fast paced loss of life, prompted Eire County Executive Mark Poloncarz to address the issue:
“We’re averaging about 10 deaths a week of Erie County residents as a result of the opiate epidemic,” Poloncarz said. “I want you to think about this, folks. It took a lot of years for Erie County to start seeing population gain after the drops in the late 1980s, 1990s and 2000. Finally, the population came back.”
Poloncarz went on to announce the creation of an Erie County Opioid Taskforce lead by County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale R. Burstein.