Personal stories shared during overdose awareness event

Published 5:01 pm Thursday, August 30, 2018

Stories of triumph. Hope for a better tomorrow.

Those were the sentiments shared Thursday afternoon as health officials from across the region hosted a regional overdose awareness event inside the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library.

Held in conjunction with International Overdose Awareness Day, recognized on Friday, Aug. 31, the Thursday event gave attendees a chance to learn about the data compiled through the region in regards to overdoses, how addiction has impacted people locally, and how to approach the issue of overdoses in the future.

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“Today has honestly been a really cool day for our community to come together,” Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition Executive Director Jilian Reece said. “We have so many people here today from throughout the region. So many people that have been impacted by addiction and overdoses are here today to share their stories. We also have people that were here today who are just curious and want to do what they can to help and make a difference.”

During the event, four individuals were able to take center stage and share how addiction impacted their lives and how they hope to combat the issue locally.

“The personal stories are the most impactful thing,” Reece said. “I’m so grateful these individuals were brave enough to step up and share their stories. That’s what makes this day what it is.”

One of the stories shared was that of Logan Roark. From Johnson City, Roark documented his story with the help of 30 Daze Productions and talked about his road to recovery from addiction.

“(Addiction) comes from everywhere, it doesn’t discriminate,” Roark said. “I am a person in recovery. I want my story to hopefully make an impact for someone who is going through a rough time.

“I spent so much of my life hurting people,” Roark added. “Now I get a chance to help someone out.”

For the event, 30 Daze Productions handled the production of videos showcasing Roark, Samantha Loveday of Red Legacy Recovery, Bryan Smith and Ryan Witten of Witten Huddle.

And Thursday is the unofficial kickoff of CCDP’s mass media campaign, Reece said. Starting Sept. 1, billboards in the area will feature campaigns against drug and substance abuse. The videos also showed during Thursday’s event will be placed on the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition Facebook page.

Along with the stories, Thursday also served as a way to get the resources out to the public. Just a week ago, TDH officials indicated that overdose deaths in the state increased in 2017 with Carter County seeing their rates raise to 21. Ranging from naloxone training to the availability of resources, the goal is to always make sure the public is informed, according to Cynthia Thomas.

Thomas, with the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office, added that individuals wanting to learn more about the steps available are encouraged to contact the agencies within their community. Carter, Washington, Unicoi and Sullivan counties were all represented during Thursday’s event.