By Christine Palmieri, Vice President, Recovery and Housing, MHA
Our community, our state, and our nation continue to experience a drug-overdose epidemic. The victims come from all walks of life, men and women, all races, adults of nearly all ages, and youth.
The numbers are staggering. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, between 2010 and 2020, the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in the state increased by nearly 400%. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70,630 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses in 2019 alone. Opioids were involved in more than 70% of overdose deaths.
The overdose epidemic is a complex and persistent problem that will not be solved through a single solution. Discovering workable solutions begins with greater public awareness, including through International Overdose Awareness Day (www.overdoseday.com). This global observance, held each year on Aug. 31, aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or sustained permanent injury as a result of drug overdose. Just as important, it spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.
On Aug. 31, people frequently wear silver, such as a silver ribbon pinned to their clothing, to show their support. If you see someone wearing silver, take the opportunity to ask them why and listen to their story. What else can you do?
• Pledge to spread the word that addiction is an epidemic that plagues every social status, race, gender, and age.
• Pledge to learn more so you can recognize early signs of addiction and help prevent a needless tragedy.
• Pledge to provide jobs for people in recovery to help them become self-sufficient and stay clean.
• If you are in recovery yourself, pledge to become a peer mentor or get trained as a recovery coach. After all, who better to help someone sustain their pathway to recovery than someone who’s been there?
MHA understands the importance of providing guidance and support to help people overcome their substance-use addiction. With this in mind, we operate residential rehabilitation programs that provide a structured, supervised environment to help individuals learn to overcome barriers and build their own success in recovery. Our approach includes programs that are designed to address the needs of specific populations, such as young men ages 18 to 26, people who identify as LGBTQ+, or individuals who have ‘graduated’ from an early-recovery program and want to share a home with others who are committed to sober living.
MHA also understands that any long-term solution to the epidemic of overdose must be rooted in prevention — and the foundation of prevention is awareness. On International Overdose Awareness Day, join MHA in making a difference. To learn more, visit www.overdoseday.com and www.mhainc.org. If you or someone you know needs help, call (844) MHA-WELL.