Of the 61,311 preventable drug overdoses in the country in 2017, more than 43,000 involved opioids. Furthermore, preventable opioid overdose deaths and are up 633% since 1999. Safe Communities Madison-Dane County, in collaboration with community partners, will be hosting awareness events the week of Aug. 31 as part of Dane County’s observance of International Overdose Awareness Day.
“Every year on Aug. 31st we have International Overdose Awareness Day and it has been launched to create a better understanding of overdose, to reduce stigma of drug-related deaths, create change that reduces the harm associated with drug use, “Kristina Vaccaro, Drug Poisoning Prevention Programs Coordinator for Safe Communities Madison-Dane County, tells Madison365. “Really, what’s important to us is to get these loved ones and affected families a way to be seen and heard and to remember and honor the lives of these people.”
Thousands of people die each year from drug overdose and they come from all walks of life. International Overdose Awareness Day remembers those gone too soon from overdose deaths.
“We hear a lot about data and numbers, but that often misses the personal effect that it has on our community as a whole and our loved ones of the people that have been lost,” Vaccaro says. “What we’ve done is try to bring awareness around this time of year. The community has been very engaged.”
Safe Communities Madison-Dane County (MDC) has had a flag display that’s been up for about a week along Atwood Ave. across from Olbrich Park.
“They were able to write the names of a loved one they lost to an overdose and put the flags out there,” Vaccaro says. “It’s a tribute to them and it really gives light to this issue.”
On Saturday, Aug. 31, Safe Communities MDC will be at the Dane County Farmers’ Market from 8 a.m.-noon on the King St. side of the Square handing out prevention material and talking to community members about International Overdose Awareness Day.
Later on that Saturday, Safe Communities MDC will host “Your Light Still Shines” memorial gathering and observance to honor loved ones lost to overdose. The event at Olbrich Park at 7 p.m. has a powerful group of guest speakers including Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and the Honorable Rev. Everett Mitchell.
“We are very excited and honored to have these three men there,” Vaccaro says. “As a community, we know that the African-American population has been affected greatly by this epidemic. A lot of times it is thought of as this ‘rich white person thing.’ It’s not true. We want to make sure that we are getting information out to all kinds of communities.
“We are so honored to have these cool people willing to come and speak about this and be a part of this,” she adds. “We’re very excited.”
Safe Communities MDC is a local non-profit organization that brings together public and private sector partners to save lives, prevent injuries and make our community a safer place. The International Overdose Awareness Day events are just one of the many things that they do in the greater Madison community year-round.
“It is going to be a very powerful event and we are so happy to have these distinguished speakers who are dedicated to addressing this issue. For them to come and see and hear about the people we have lost is so powerful,” Vaccaro says. “It’s so important for our community to know that our leaders are invested and involved and that they will be seen and heard. I think that’s really important.”