This month Dr. Patrick Green from Bonneville Family Practice held a discussion with the Tooele Rural Opioid Healthcare Consortium (TROHC) about the state of treatment options in Tooele County for people struggling with substance use disorder. He showed a graph from a University of Utah, Kem Gardner Policy Institute report with startling implications for Tooele. The chart of 2019 data shows Tooele with the second-highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the state. But even more alarming, the total number of treatment options in Tooele County was the lowest of any health district in the state. So Tooele is battling a crisis of overdose deaths with very limited resources.
In recognition of the need to support people battling substance use disorder as the answer to their pain and emptiness, the TROHC is holding a community event to build awareness and bring hope. International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is celebrated each year on Aug. 31 as a global event. Tooele will recognize IOAD with a Light to Remember festival in the Stansbury Observatory Park, Aug. 31 from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
The purpose is to raise awareness of overdose and how it is preventable while also recognizing the tragic loss of even one life to a preventable death. IOAD is a day to learn about community services and how treatment and access can prevent drug-related harms. It is also a day to remember those who have suffered or passed away due to overdose and post a tribute to them. In doing so it isn’t the tragedy that we commemorate, but we recognize the suffering and light a candle of hope for the future.
At Tooele’s celebration, we will gather with the Life’s Worth Living Foundation, Warrior Spirit, and other community sponsors for a day of remembrance. The entire Tooele community is invited to come and share your stories, light a candle on the lake, receive free resources and Naloxone to prevent future overdoses, and enjoy a free $5 Food Truck voucher for each person in attendance. Coming together is one way we can show those who have struggled that we hear you, see you, and want your light to be with us. Registration is free at: www.eventbrite.com/e/164159765277
You can also show your support with friends or online. Talking to people who have similar experiences is one way to help each other use those stories to give hope, share advice and offer help when needed. In addition, you can get involved by posting a tribute on social media, following @overdoseawarenessday, and using the hashtags #Overdoseday, #Endoverdose, and #IOAD2021. These will open you to thousands of stories and tributes of overdose victims and survivors in the month of August.
Our efforts are making a difference. Utah had the highest drug overdose rate in the nation in 2005 and approaching the highest in 2015. But by 2019, our state rates had dropped 20%. It is up to the Tooele community to change the stats locally, learn more, and ensure we have the support and treatment options to halt drug-related deaths. This problem is affecting so many locally as well as around the world. Join us Aug. 31 to bring awareness and show the grassroots-level support necessary to send a message of hope and change.
Maren Wright Voss, ScD, is a professional practice extension assistant professor of health and wellness at the USU Extension – Tooele County Office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2409 and at email@example.com.