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Overdose Awareness Day: Montanans Honor Lives Lost

Narcan, also known as naloxone, can reverse overdoses while they're happening. (Gov. Tom Wolf/Flickr)
Narcan, also known as naloxone, can reverse overdoses while they're happening. (Gov. Tom Wolf/Flickr)
August 29, 2019

MISSOULA, Mont. – Montanans on Thursday are remembering lives lost to overdose in Missoula.

The organization Open Aid Alliance is marking Overdose Awareness Day with a memorial, overdose response education and lunch to bring members of the community together.

The organization also is handing out naloxone – an antidote that can reverse overdoses while they're happening.

A 2017 bill in the Montana Legislature increased access to the reversal drug.

"Our plan for the day is to remember those that we've lost and pay some honor to that, celebrate those that are still with us and keep a real kind of fight and energy to make sure that we don't have to lose anyone else going forward," says Amanda Reese, harm reduction program coordinator for the Open Aid Alliance

International Overdose Awareness Day is Saturday.

The number of overdose deaths nationwide dropped from 72,000 to 68,000 between 2017 and 2018, representing the first drop in deaths since 1990.

Overdose deaths in Montana have been on the decline over the past few years.

Reese says stigma is a barrier to helping more people. She says some people suffer from the personal stigma of their substance-abuse disorder. Others feel too embarrassed to engage with recovery services such as hers.

Reese says with an epidemic as big as the opioid crisis, everyone knows someone who has been affected by overdose.

"Whether it's a friend or a family member, a co-worker, nobody's really immune at this point, and so we're just trying to remind folks that we need to bring everybody into our arms and say, 'Your life is worth saving,'" she stresses.

Open Aid Alliance began as AIDS service organization in the 1980s. It now has a sterile syringe service program to reduce the spread of disease, a found syringe hotline, and has just started harm reduction intervention services.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT