August 2020 marks the fourth year that McDowell County has come together to observe Overdose Awareness Day. McDowell Impact, CareReach’s peer support program, is co-hosting the event along with the Community Engagement Project, Marion East Community Forum, EMS Community Care Paramedics, McDowell Access to Care and Health (MATCH), and the Foothills Food Hub. This year, due to COVID-19, they have moved the event online and have been promoting awareness of the event all month long.

The goal of the event is to educate, bring awareness, and destigmatize overdose through personal testimonies that bring hope and light to the subject, along with information on resources that are available for families and individuals affected by overdose. This event is a tool to bring the community together and promote a safe, unified environment conducive to recovery from substance use. These aims align directly with Impact’s goals of breaking stigma, decreasing isolation, growing resources and building a strong recovery community with a united effort to combat substance use and its effects on the community.

McDowell County has a higher rate of overdose than the state (22.2 per 100,000 residents versus 16.7 for NC, NCDHHS 2014-18) and while overdose due to opioid use has dropped from it’s high in 2016, the rate of overdose due to heroin and synthetic narcotics  has increased dramatically in the same period.

In 2018, McDowell EMS responded to 52 overdose calls, followed by 40 calls in 2019. In 2020 already, EMS has responded to 45 calls with four months left in the year. While the cause of the jump this year is not known with any certainty, narrative reports from first responders suggest it is at least in part due to the isolation and limited access to services caused by COVID.

Please consider joining your own community’s efforts to raise awareness. To learn more about the events in McDowell County, go to the McDowell Overdose Awareness Group Facebook page.