Thursday, August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held each year to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose. Overdose Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.
Communities throughout the US and around the world are experiencing a true overdose crisis. Some facts about the crisis here in Baltimore:
- There were 2,089 overdose deaths in Maryland last year—twice as many as just two years ago. (source)
- Fentanyl-related deaths in Maryland jumped by than 300% from 2015 to 2016 (340 to 1,119). (source)
- Only one in 10 people in the U.S. who need treatment receive it. (source)
- In the first quarter of 2017, overdose deaths in Maryland were up 27% from the same period last year and Fentanyl-related deaths increased 137%. (source)
Earlier this year, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared the overdose crisis a “state of emergency,” but as Scott Nolen, director of OSI-Baltimore’s Drug Addiction Treatment program, pointed out in his March Baltimore Sun op-ed, the state has not responded to the crisis with the proper urgency and continues to stigmatize substance users:
If this were a hurricane or a flash flood, we would not be blaming victims for their predicament or arguing about whether we should use all means necessary to save people who are stranded on the top of their homes. In a state of emergency, the top priority is the preservation of life. And, in those most horrific moments, we come together as a community and work creatively with the resources we have to keep our neighbors alive because we all understand that tomorrow’s emergency could put us in harm’s way.
In order to raise awareness of the overdose crisis in Maryland and urge people to take action, OSI-Baltimore commissioned local artist Alex Fine to create the two posters pictured above (see full sizes here and here), which have been posted in locations around town, including digital billboards on I-83, City Hall, the Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore Police headquarters, Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore, and at various office buildings downtown. We’ve shared digital versions on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram, and we encourage you to share them as well.
For more information and a full list of links and resources, go to osibaltimore.org/endoverdose.
The Baltimore City Health Department will be offering Naloxone trainings throughout the day on Thursday and OSI will join the Health Department for an Overdose Awareness Day Remembrance Event at Red Emma’s Thursday afternoon from 4 to 6pm.