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Overdose awareness event planned for Saturday in Medford

This year’s International Overdose Awareness Day in Southern Oregon, which normally attracts hundreds to downtown Medford, will look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event will feature a remembrance and lighting event from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday in Alba Park, 301 W. Main St., Medford.

People can walk up or drive by the Eighth Street side of the park to pick up a free kit of naloxone, the life-saving antidote to opioid overdoses. Opioids include prescription pain pills such as OxyContin and illicit drugs like heroin.

People can bring photos of loved ones lost to overdose and light remembrance candles. They are being asked to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Unlike past years, the overdose awareness event in Medford won’t have dozens of local organizations on hand providing information about addiction treatment and other services.

But a broad range of organizations in the Rogue Valley will be putting up purple lights to spread the message about overdose awareness and prevention.

Cities across America and the world have created light displays in past years for International Overdose Awareness Day, but that wasn’t the focus for the local event.

“This year seemed like the perfect time,” said local organizer Julia Pinsky, co-founder of the overdose prevention group Max’s Mission. “People are still overdosing. People are still dying. It’s important not to ignore it.”

Pinsky lost her son Max to an opioid overdose in 2013.

Lights will start going up in the Rogue Valley Friday and will come down Tuesday, Sept. 1.

Organizations that have agreed to light up include OnTrack, Addictions Recovery Center, Medford Police Department, Jackson County Community Justice Department and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Max’s Mission plans to post a list of participants so people can walk or drive to see the unusual display of lights in August.

All organizations and businesses are invited to display purple lights.

“A visible display of support is huge,” Pinsky said.

She said the issue of opioid overdose is clouded in stigma and shame, even though it impacts a broad cross-section of people. The more the community can talk about the issue openly, the better it will be able to address the problem.

During the pandemic, Max’s Mission has found new ways to deliver naloxone. The nonprofit organization used to hold regular giveaway events in public locations like libraries, but has cut back on the number of in-person events.

All around Jackson and Josephine counties, Max’s Mission has set up red emergency boxes with naloxone kits inside. The nonprofit organization will also mail kits to people living in Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties.

Sold under the brand name Narcan, naloxone is an easy-to-use nasal spray that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

For more information about the local International Overdose Awareness Day event and Max’s Mission, call 458-225-9760 or see maxsmission.org.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Overdose Antidote naloxone spray