By Melisa Damcevska, Preventionist I
On August 31, thousands of individuals across the country will commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day, a day to remember those we have lost in the fight against addiction, those who are still suffering, those in recovery, and their loved ones.
Overdose Awareness Day provides an opportunity to bring light to a public health crisis that is often highly stigmatized by and seen as personal moral failure.
In Middlesex County alone, as of January 1, 2018, there have been 125 suspected overdose deaths, 533 Naloxone administrations, and 220, 225 opioid prescriptions dispensed (NJCARES, Office of the Attorney General 2018). Each of these deaths were preventable, and raising awareness and education about the dangers of substance use – particularly opioid and prescription medication – is critical in helping to curb the crisis.
International Overdose Awareness Day is observed worldwide and aims to increase this awareness and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. Towns across the country also take part in their own commemorations, and Dunellen, New Jersey was one of them.
On August 24, 2018, Dunellen held its second Overdose Awareness Day for their community at Washington Memorial Park. With support from the Dunellen Municipal Alliance, Wellspring Center for Prevention, Dunellen Police Department and Princeton House Behavioral Health, community members were able to experience a night of memorials and support.
They were able to find resources about substance misuse prevention, safe medicine disposal, and treatment. The Dunellen Police Department offered statistics about overdose deaths in the community – with the good news that the rate has dropped in the past year. Several individuals were able to commemorate someone they loved. It was a night of somberness, but also a night of support and love as the community came together to find strength in one another.