By Julene Reese
International Overdose Awareness Day, held annually on Aug. 31, recognizes those who have died from an overdose and acknowledges the grief of the family and friends left behind. The campaign focuses on ways to provide support, education and understanding for what has become a public health crisis.
Maren Wright Voss, USU Extension health and wellness professor, said part of overdose prevention is understanding its need and raising awareness since Utah has been among the states with the highest overdose rates.
“Opioids and overdose are community-wide problems that can impact anyone,” she said. “For instance, if an elderly person accidentally takes an extra dose of pain medication, knowing how to administer Naloxone, a medicine that reverses an opioid overdose, could save their life.”
Voss said that just like a cancer walk, “A Light to Remember” provides a chance for communities to unite, show support and receive education.
“In remembering those we have lost, we remember why we need to make things different for our future mothers, fathers, children and friends,” she said.
Four free events in Utah counties provide an opportunity to honor and show community support for those who need hope, healing and recovery. It can also help those experiencing substance use disorder (SUD) and friends and family who have supported someone with SUD. The events are made possible through multiple community partnerships in each location. All four luminary celebrations are held Wednesday, Aug. 31, at the following times and locations:
* Carbon/Emery counties – 6 to 8 p.m., Huntington State Park, Mohrland Road, Huntington.
* Tooele County – 7:30 to 9 p.m., Stansbury Park Clubhouse, 1 Clubhouse Drive, Stansbury Park.
* Salt Lake County – 7:30 to 9 p.m., Wheeler Historic Farm, 6531 South 900 East, Murray.
* Duchesne County – 7 to 9 p.m., Old Mill Park, 278 East 100 North, Roosevelt.
The Salt Lake County event is held in conjunction with Overdose Awareness Day held at the Utah State Capitol. It is the county’s first “A Light to Remember” event. Tooele County is in its third year of hosting remembrance activities.
Ashley Yaugher, USU Extension health and wellness faculty member and chair of the Carbon and Emery Opioid and Substance Use Coalition, said that unfortunately these two communities have led the state in overdose deaths for many years.
“However, we are starting to turn the tide through awareness and stigma reduction, which is inspiring hope,” she said. “This luminary tribute for those we have lost is intended to bring further awareness and resources to our areas. Our rural communities and partners have come together to make this event possible because substance use and overdose have touched all our lives. We want to empower everyone with the knowledge of how to save a life in an overdose emergency and provide resources and hope.”
For further information about the events, contact Voss for Tooele and Salt Lake counties at Maren.Voss@usu.edu, (385) 468-4841; Yaugher for Carbon and Emery counties at Ashley.Yaugher@usu.edu, (435) 636-3276; and Mercedis Zismer for Duchesne County at Mercedis.Zismer@usu.edu, (801) 831-3092.