Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of and addiction to opioids is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. With that in mind, the African American Opioid Coalition is asking community members to bring their unwanted prescription medications to church with them this Sunday, Feb. 11, so that they can be safely disposed of as they host their second Med Drop Sunday at various local African American churches in Madison.
“My goal is to have Med Drop Sunday at all the African American Churches in Dane County,” Charlie Daniel, Program Coordinator for Safe Community MDC, tells Madison365. “The opioid addiction for young African Americans starts with medication stolen from their grandmother’s medicine cabinet. Getting these unused meds out those cabinets is our first step in fighting this disease.”
Daniel is the founder and the chair of the African American Opioid Coalition (AAOC) that is working hard to address the opioid epidemic in the African-American community. Last year, they hosted successful Med Drop Sundays at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Fountain Of Life Church and St. Paul AME Church in Madison.
This Sunday, the AAOC will host Med Drops at the following four black churches in Madison: Christ The Solid Rock, Zion City, Second Baptist and The Faith Place.
“The abuse of opiates is a huge problem in our society right now,” Daniel says. “There are more people dying of opiate overdose than ever. It’s a big epidemic in various communities.”
Pain medication, if used incorrectly, can be fatal. Last year, unintentional poisonings killed more Dane County residents than automobile crashes, Daniels says, and misuse or abuse of prescription over-the-counter or illicit drugs are the major cause.
“What I want people to see is that this is not a white person’s disease. That’s what you see on TV,” Daniel says. “But it’s not. It’s rapidly growing in the African-American community much like the crack epidemic once did.
“Lest we not forget this is a disease, and we must learn to fight and be made aware of this disease like any other disease,” she adds. “I don’t want my community to treat this disease like we did HIV-AIDS – that this is not just a white people disease. This is a black and brown disease, as well”.
Racial bias has helped to mold a gentler rhetorical response to the opioid crisis for white people and families whom are suffering. It’s a compassion that historically hasn’t been afforded to black and brown people in the United States.
“There are a lot of people – including me – who are very angry that society took people addicted to crack in the ’80s and ’90s and sent them to prison,” Daniel says. “Now, that white people are OD-ing from heroin overdose, they are getting treatment. They’re not getting sent to jail.
“We don’t want anybody to go to jail, but we would just like to see all the people get the help that they need,” she adds.
Sunday’s 2nd Annual Med Drop will be an important step in keeping drugs out of the wrong hands and possibly preventing an overdose.
“Older people like me, we go to the doctor and the doctor prescribes 30, 60, 90 pills and sometimes they end up in the medicine cabinet and we don’t even take them,” Daniel says. “We have our grandchildren coming over and some of them know exactly what this stuff is all about and they steal it from us. They take it. And it becomes part of the opioid epidemic as they become addicted and some do die from overdose.”
Daniel says she’s very appreciative of Sgt. R.J. Lurquin from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office and Capt. James Wheeler from the Madison Police Department for their help and assistance. “You have to have the police and the sheriff there with the lockboxes to put the medications in,” she says. “So we are thankful for their help on this.”
“We’re just trying to take charge of this and get rid of this unused medication,” she adds. “The bottom line is that we are doing this to save lives.”