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Remembrance at ID Capitol for Overdose Victims

For Overdose Awareness Day, Idahoans place a pair of shoes tied to balloons on the steps of the State Capitol. (Chris Mecham)
For Overdose Awareness Day, Idahoans place a pair of shoes tied to balloons on the steps of the State Capitol. (Chris Mecham)
August 28, 2019

BOISE, Idaho – Idahoans will be on the steps of the Capitol building on Thursday to remember the lives lost last year to overdose. In 2018, 249 people died by overdose, and each death will be symbolized with a balloon tied to a pair of shoes.

Chris Mecham, director of operations at the PEER Wellness Center, a recovery community center in Boise that is sponsoring the Overdose Awareness Day event, said overdoses are preventable and there are ways to support folks on their road to recovery.

"Destigmatizing the language that we use around people looking for recovery, and communicating that recovery is possible and worth the effort," he said. "Those are the two most important messages I think we can send the public."

Mecham noted that overdoses from all drugs in Idaho were up by 10% last year. He said he believes the state's expansion of Medicaid could significantly improve conditions in Idaho over the next year, allowing the Department of Health and Welfare to shift money for treatment to recovery services. While overdose deaths from opioids appear to be leveling off across the country, Meacham said, now is not the time to back off of prevention efforts.

"We need to make sure that we continue expanding access to treatment," he said. "The fact of the matter is, treatment works - and people who have access to treatment have a much better chance of achieving long-term recovery than people who don't."

Overdose Awareness Day also coincides with the Idaho Recovery Open Awareness Ride, which takes place over Labor Day weekend. Bikers ride a 1,400-mile loop through Idaho and western Montana to show there is life after recovery.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID