Last year overdose killed more people nationally than breast cancer, car accidents and guns combined, and Lake County has the highest overdose rate in California. To help transform these stark numbers, Hope Rising, a Lake County health collaborative, hosted an event with its partners in Library Park, Lakeport, on August 31st in support of International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) – the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.
Faith Hornby, Executive Director of Hope Rising, opened the event, emphasizing that the overdose rate in Lake County is over three times higher than the state average.
“That’s why we’re all gathered here today, to honor the lives lost to substance use disorders. This does not have to happen. And how we solve it, is solving it together, through our partnerships, reducing the stigmas, and being here for each other.”
Lakeport Police Chief Brad Rasmussen shared the Police Department’s experience reviving even those who had been pronounced deceased on the scene, through the use of Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal drug.
Poster board headstones were displayed in Library Park to pay tribute to the 51 Lake County lives lost to fatal overdose in 2020. Twenty one lives have been lost in 2021 so far. During the event community members took the opportunity to memorialize someone they lost by writing in their names and dedications on the headstones. Tribute was paid to lost family members, friends and coworkers. From those who came to attend the event, to those passing by from the nearby Farmers Market, everyone seemed to have been affected by addiction in some form, and many personal recovery stories were overheard being shared. One man who lost both a wife and a dear friend, said, “You can carry the message, you can’t carry the addict.”
Stigma is the largest barrier to receiving help with addiction, and event speaker Jen Nauert with Lake County Tribal Health shared her experience with a near fatal overdose, and her recovery and work in the community since. “Did you know that the United States is less than 5% of the world’s population, yet we consume more than 80% of the world’s opioids? The most painful thing we can put out into the world is, ‘There is no hope for them.’ If someone did not have hope in me, I would not be standing here right now. I am able to stand here and talk because someone had a mustard seed of hope in me.” Mary Gross, Project Associate of Hope Rising, shared her own story of losing her brother to overdose, and how this motivates her work with SafeRx in Lake County.
In 2020 over 40 Lake County lives were saved from fatal overdose by the use of Narcan. Over the course of the event Tribal Health, along with SafeRx, a Hope Rising subsidiary dedicated to reducing the harm of the opioid crisis, distributed over 30 Narcan kits, and provided free 90 second trainings.
Hope Rising partners supporting the IOAD event include Lake County Behavioral Health, Tribal Health, and Public Health, Tobacco Free North Coast, and Redwood Community Services.