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Local communities around the world are coming together on August 31st to remember those who have died or suffered a permanent injury due to a drug overdose.

Observed on the 31st of August every year, International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) seeks to create a better understanding of overdose, reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths, and create change that reduces the harms associated with drug use.

The public is invited to participate in a local event on August 31st, from 7 – 9 pm at Glades Park Pavilion at 10 Spruce Lane, Oakland, MD. The Stories of Hope & Candlelight Vigil is designed to raise awareness that overdose affects all walks of life and it is preventable. Resource tables will be available with information about prevention, treatment, recovery, support groups, etc.

In 2018, there were 747 IOAD events of all kinds, held in 38 countries, with people and communities coming together to raise awareness of one of the world’s most urgent public health crises – one that, unfortunately, is only getting worse.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s most recent World Annual Drug Report, 585,000 people around the world died as a result of drug use in 2017.

“The candlelight vigil is a touching way for families to remember a loved one they have lost, or who is still struggling with addiction,” said Sadie Liller, Prevention Coordinator at the Garrett County Health Department, and organizer for the event. “By coming together to remember them, we stand together to say that more needs to be done to end overdose in our community.”

The Stories of Hope will begin at 7:00 p.m. with three community members telling their stories. The candlelight vigil portion of the event will take place at the end of the evening. New this year will be a photo voice project, which depicts the stigma associated with addiction.

In addition, the event will be the kickoff for the Project Purple Campaign, designed to reduce the stigma of mental health and substance use disorders. Businesses, agencies, towns, communities, and individuals are asked to turn Garrett County purple by putting up banners, purple ribbons, purple lightbulbs, wearing purple clothes, and using #EndTheStigmaGC on marquees, etc.

Individuals can also support IOAD and Project Purple by posting appropriate pictures to their social media accounts and using #EndtheStigmaGC or #ItTakesUsAllGC. Posts must be marked as public to allow everyone to be able to see.

“Overdose can affect anybody and one of the messages of this day is that the people who overdose are our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters – they are loved and they are missed,” Liller said. “No family should ever have to go through the pain of losing a loved one because of overdose.”

International Overdose Awareness Day is organized by Penington Institute, an Australian not-for-profit. Locally, the event is partially funded by the Maryland Department of Health and SAMHSA. For more information visit bit.ly/oad2019, or call the health department at 301-334-7730 or 301-895-3111.