If you happened to be driving near Fort Vancouver Park on August 31st, you might have noticed more than 200 signs, lined up, one after the other, the entire length of the park. On each sign was a photograph of a person whose life was lost to drug overdose.
The display was one of the ways community members collaborated to recognize Overdose Awareness Day.
“It was a visual representation of the impact of overdose. So often we tell stories of hope, but the reality is that we are losing people every day. So, it’s okay to take a moment to acknowledge that people are dying,” Jim Jensen, Manager of Collaboration and Learning at Southwest Washington Accountable Community for Health (SWACH).
The signs were printed with support from Clark County, Lyn Anderson and The Recovery Café, and Clark County Opioid Task Force.
Jensen describes one person, riding a bike, who stopped and asked about the signs, “Are these people in recovery?” she asked. Jenson explained that they were people in our community who died of overdose.
Jensen says, “Noticing that none of these faces are repeating, she was visibly overwhelmed.” It was an imposing thing to look at – all the signs—realizing that they represented lives. Most are quite recent.
In addition to the memorial display at Fort Vancouver Park, agencies in Southwest Washington also promoted a viewing of the documentary Written Off, the story of a young man who journaled throughout his addiction and sobriety. Rehabilitation center Rainer Springs sponsored the license to share the film – on Zoom – where people from the recovery community gathered to view.
An Ongoing Concern
According to the Washington State Department of health, 700 people per year (on average) die of opioid overdose in Washington State. Many thousands more deal with opioid use disorder every day, whether it’s prescription opioids or heroine.
Overdose Awareness Day 2020 allowed community members to meaningfully bring awareness to the issue by recognizing those who’ve recovered as well as those who did not.