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Overdose Awareness Day event offers helpful resources

Opioid overdose antidote nasal spray will be given away during an Overdose Awareness Day event in Medford on Saturday. File photo
Addiction, health care, housing help available

More than 20 organizations offering help with addiction, mental and physical health care, housing and more will be on hand during a Southern Oregon Overdose Awareness Day event in Medford.

“We want people to be able to reach out, connect to services, get advice and talk to someone,” said Julia Pinsky, co-founder of Max’s Mission and the organizer of the local event.

The event is from 2-5 p.m. Saturday at Hawthorne Park, located along East Main, Hawthorne and East Jackson streets in Medford.

Organizations will set up booths and talk to visitors seeking information and help for themselves or a loved one.

Addiction treatment providers, organizations that offer Oregon Health Plan insurance benefits, the La Clinica network of health care clinics, mental health organizations and housing aid groups will be among those attending the event.

Pinsky said mental health issues and substance use are often tied together, with issues like depression or anxiety sometimes contributing to drug use, and drug use triggering or worsening mental health problems.

Dual Diagnosis Anonymous of Oregon and the Southern Oregon chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness will be among the organizations offering support.

The stress and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the growing prevalence of potentially deadly fentanyl in the drug supply, helped fuel a jump in overdose deaths in Jackson County and across the nation.

In Jackson County, 30 people died from overdoses in 2019. That number rose 36.7% to 41 deaths in 2020, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Nationwide, overdose deaths were up 29.4% from 2019 to 2020, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Max’s Mission, which is known for providing free opioid overdose reversal kits, will offer kits plus training on how to use them to save a life. Pinsky’s son Max died of an overdose in Ashland in 2013, prompting her and her husband to found the nonprofit organization.

Visitors to the event can learn more about medication-assisted treatment. Prescription medication can help ease withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings, improving people’s chances of beating addiction.

“It’s about people being able to get their lives back and not have the cravings,” Pinsky said.

A specialist will be available to help people expunge qualifying offenses, such as drug possession convictions, from their criminal record. Having a criminal record can hold some people back from getting jobs and improving their lives.

The Overdose Awareness Day event will offer a place to remember those who have died from an overdose.

“People will speak about those they lost recently and years ago. Anyone can bring a photo of someone they lost and put it up,” Pinsky said.

Originally scheduled in August, this year’s Overdose Awareness Day in Medford was pushed back to October because of a summer and fall surge in COVID-19 cases. A dropoff in cases has allowed the event to move forward.

Last year’s Overdose Awareness Day in Medford was limited to a scaled-back version.

Observed annually, International Overdose Awareness Day is a time to remember those who died and take action to prevent future overdoses. Organizations often show their support by hanging purple lights.

For more information about the local event or Max’s Mission, see maxsmission.org.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.