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Prevention Coalition – We must understand addiction

By Christy Smith

As the Christmas Season begins, we know that this year has been difficult for many people, especially those dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues. Opioid overdoses are on the rise in Tennessee due to COVID-19. The Unicoi County Prevention Coalition works with Sherry Combs Barnett, a trained regional overdose prevention specialist, trauma informed care trainer, and harm reduction educator to train and educate the community.

Over the past few years Sherry has trained first responders, law enforcement, educators, community organizations and family members on Naloxone. Naloxone is a harm reduction medication that is called an “opioid antagonist” and it’s used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose. During COVID-19, Sherry has been training the community via Zoom and has had tremendous participation this year. The training is only one hour, and participants receive a free Naloxone kit.

Of course, there is always backlash among people in the community. Some say that Naloxone allows substance abuse users to keep overdosing because now they can be saved by this medication. The Coalition has heard many leaders within the community say that Naloxone aids in continued overdoses.

My response to people is, “isn’t every life worth saving?” Even if one is a substance abuse user, every life counts. People are worth saving. If your child or family member were a user would you not want to save their life? What if your child got into your medicine cabinet and took a medication that was not theirs? Would you not want to save them?

In 2018, DrugAbuse.Gov indicated that ages 15-24 had 4,633 overdose deaths which included illicit opioids, sedatives, and common prescription medications like pain relievers. This is too many.

I know how mental health and substance abuse are related and that ADDICTION is a DISEASE not a MORAL FAILURE.

We must understand ADDICTION. We must understand to help our loved ones. We should be trained in Naloxone. Walgreens is now stocked with Naloxone and the Coalition keeps Naloxone on hand for any family member or substance abuse user that needs to carry it.

If you want to be trained in Naloxone, need a resource guide, or need to talk to me, please call 735-8407 or stop by the Coalition next to Nationwide Insurance at the bottom of Rock Creek Road. I can help you find the right resources that you need to help you or your loved one.

Many blessings to you all this Christmas Season. Until next month, stay healthy and safe.