As overdoses and substance abuse continue to be a growing problem in Perry County and across the nation, several community organizations and businesses are partnering together to fight against addiction and promote recovery. Just in the past week, two recovery related events were held in Hazard, as well as an event designed to help the children of those facing addiction and an event that provided an opportunity to dispose of excess medications to lower the risk of drug misuse.

One of the recovery events was a Recovery Festival held at the new Mountain Comprehensive Care Center on Ky. 15 on April 27, and the other was the “Wounds to Wisdom” recovery event held by the Isaiah House Treatment Center on April 29.

During the April 27 Recovery Festival, multiple organizations including Primary Care, Little Flower Clinic, Mountain Comprehensive Care, the Perry County QRT and more reviewed services offered at their locations; addressed the stigma against addiction and discussed how to be a recovery ally; provided stories about the HOPE program and recognized peer support and first responders; provided free food, haircuts, music, Narcan and door prizes; and held a group discussion about understanding substance use disorders and the need present in our community. This event gave the recovery community an opportunity to meet with the staff of the participating organizations and learn about the available resources in the area.

The festival, said Becky Kilburn, grant director for Mountain Comprehensive Community Care, was very needed at this time due to the high rates of overdoses and overdose related deaths in the area. Working together with community partners, she said, is the only way Perry County can truly fight the drug epidemic and make an impact on the recovery community.

“This year and the last few years, fentanyl has made its presence and there are more overdoses now than ever before – not just in our area, not just in Kentucky, but all over the United States. We have to work to prevent these overdoses, we have to work to get people off of medications before it’s too late, ”said Kilburn. “We have to work together to save a life.”

Days later, the Isaiah House recovery event was held at the ArtStation in downtown Hazard, and allowed speakers to share testimonies about their recovery and share their experiences about working at Isaiah House and Primary Care Center. By exposing the recovery community to these stories, they were able to relate to people who once faced the same struggles they are facing and see that those addictions can be overcome with help, support and treatment.

One man was even able to be signed into treatment during this event, which led organizers to feel that it was a success.

“Actually, while we were there that day I had one of the guys that’s been reaching out to me at Primary Care, he showed up and we got him into treatment,” said Primary Care Center Family Support Supervisor Gracie Nantz. “I do feel like it was very successful just by getting that one person into treatment – that was successful to me,” she said. The individual, she said, was placed into treatment on Monday, May 2.

The following day, April 30, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Kentucky State Police (KSP) Post 13 set up at KSP Post 13 in Hazard for the DEA’s national “Drug Take Back” event, where they collected various prescription and non- prescription drugs for proper disposal. This event, said officials, is usually held twice a year in an attempt to educate the community about the importance of proper drug disposal and reduce the risk of unused medications falling into the wrong hands.

KSP and DEA officials said something as simple as throwing drugs away in the trash can result in them being retrieved and abused or illegally sold, and when drugs are flushed, it can contaminate the water supply. Pharmaceutical drugs can be just as dangerous as street drugs when taken without a prescription, they said, explaining that unused or expired prescription medications are a public safety issue that can lead to accidental poisoning, overdose and abuse.

Then this week, on May 3, a children’s reading corner and learning activity space was unveiled at SPARK Ministries (Special People Advocating Recovery Kentucky) inside the old Perry County courthouse. The reading corner is part of an initiative that will work to promote and support early learning and literacy for children whose parents and caregivers are undergoing treatment for addiction recovery.

Jenny Combs, Primary Care director for SPARK Ministries, who also oversees Celebrate Recovery, said SPARK is grateful for the opportunity to provide a children’s reading corner in their Hazard SPARK office because she knows that the children of individuals facing addiction are battling with this too in their own ways.

“We are very excited to get to pair and partner with Save the Children. The Perry County SPARK office also reaches children in many forms. They battle with addiction in their own way; they come out of homes where their parents battle addiction, their grandparents, their brothers, their sisters, ”said Combs. “Blessing them with a nice place to play and learn at a hard moment in their lives will be an encouragement to them and their families.”

For the man who got into treatment during “Wounds to Wisdom,” for the struggling addict who needed to know they aren’t alone in the world, for the person who feels like their life will never change, for the recovery community as a whole in Perry County, and for their families, events like these all mean the world because they provide people facing addiction and substance abuse disorders with an opportunity to interact with people in similar situations, learn about available resources in the community and find hope that there is life after addiction.

For years, a negative stigma has been attached to those facing addiction, which in turn leads people to be hesitant of seeking treatment. When you feel like the world is against you, why would you want to try to expose yourself to more feelings of doubt, distrust and uncertainty? This is why working together with organizations that have similar goals is so important in the fight against substance abuse. Just knowing you have a support system and resources available if you need them can make a huge difference in the mindset of someone struggling with addiction. Compassion, understanding, education and support are what we as a community need to focus on when dealing with the recovery community.

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