THIS ONE’S PERSONAL.
Or at least, by the time you finish reading this, it will be. Last week, one of your neighbors died as a result of an overdose. Another died the week before that, and another, the week before that. In fact, you have lost one neighbor almost every single week to opioid overdose for the past five years—in Frederick County alone. Let that sink in.
Now, you’ve probably heard some things about the opioid epidemic, but perhaps never realized just how close to home it is. Opioid overdose is, in fact, happening in our own neighborhoods, on the streets we walk every day. It is happening to your friends, family and co-workers. The demographic who takes the biggest hit tends to be white men in the 35-50 age range, no economic indicators.
Let’s take a momentary step back and look at the big picture here. The opioid epidemic started over thirty years ago, with a pocketful of lies. The American public was told that opioids do not cause addiction. Pharmaceutical companies twisted study results, assuring those in the healthcare field that patients could not become addicted to prescribed pain relievers. So—you guessed it—opioids were prescribed more readily and frequently. The result was entire communities overwhelmed with overdoses and deaths. At this time, street heroin became an easily accessible, cheaper substitute. And police, who were used to the gang model of drug-dealing, struggled to catch onto new suburban cell phone delivery models of drug usage.
Fast-forward to last year, when there was a thirty percent national increase in fatal opioid overdoses. Here in Frederick, in just a ten week period, twenty people died.
COVID forced people to remain isolated. Recovering addicts left sober houses. AA meetings were put on hold. There was no longer in-person support for those struggling and recovering. What’s more, the government handed out “free” money, which is often hard to manage for those in recovery and leads to relapse, according to national research.
No support structure, increased stress, and a surplus of available money. It is a deadly equation.
But there is hope. There is hope in community. Community gives someone a reason to not go back to an addictive substance. And we can be that community. Here’s where Frederick County Goes Purple comes in. Frederick County Goes Purple is a grassroots response among schools, businesses and individuals to help raise awareness about this issue, and to shout from the rooftops that, “There is help! There is hope! There is a community behind you!”
Let’s be a community. Let’s really, truly, be a community.
We must overcome the stigma, first. But keep in mind that we can overcome the stigma while still holding fast to truth. You see, drug addiction is dangerous and there is no denying that. But the danger is rooted in years of failure on the part of our society.
People need connection. People need support, encouragement, and accountability. And this is especially true for those who are struggling with addiction.
When one is isolated, the risk of relapse is much greater.
We need to acknowledge and understand the danger of addiction and drugs, but at the same time, realize that these people struggling are our neighbors, our co-workers, our family. They are...us.
And they need us.
We must “lean in and care...as an informed friend, family or coworker,” emphasizes Jon Switzer. “We can’t make the decision for them to recover, but when they do make the decision, they can’t do it without us.”
Andrea Walker, Barbara Brookmyer, and Jay Hessler are three individuals who have led the Frederick County Health Department in raising awareness and directly helping recovering addicts. CORE, a peer recovery program in Frederick, offers a personal approach to recovery. The Phoenix Foundation helps teens in school who are struggling with addiction.
You can—and should—get involved, too. Frederick County Goes Purple is a phenomenal way to do so. Frederick County Goes Purple is an awareness campaign that magnifies those on the ground doing amazing work: Frederick Rescue Mission, Celebrate Recovery, NA/AA, Olsen House, The Ranch, Faith House, CrossRoads Freedom Center, Maryland Heroin Awareness Advocates, Richard Carbaugh Foundation and Thurmont Addiction Counsel.
The following are powerful action steps for you, your family and your business to consider: Decorate in purple—hang purple banners or install purple light bulbs. Wear “Frederick County Goes Purple” t-shirts (and other gear, which can be found on the website). Share the cause on your social media pages. And, importantly, take Purple Certification Training, which is intended for businesses and community members who want to become involved in helping prevent the rise of opioid addiction. (ACES—Adverse Childhood Experiences—taught by Karmin Jenkins, falls under this training as well).
Every bit of effort goes a long way in showing the community that we are, in fact, a community who stands strong, and stands together.
“We can’t make the decision for them to recover, but when they do make the decision, they can’t do it without us.”
Take Purple Certification Training
Share on Social Media
Rock the Purple