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WVU to mark Morgantown Overdose Awareness Day with panel discussion

Candlelight vigil, naloxone training also planned

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Morgantown native Makalynn wants to end the stigma of those suffering from addiction.

The West Virginia University senior is a member of a 12-step recovery program that has helped her regain control of her life.

“I knew I had a drug problem when I reached high school because I was obsessively and compulsively using every chance I got despite the consequences,” she said.

Makalynn spent 10 months in an adolescent drug treatment program before reaching out to a local support group. She celebrated four years of being clean June 5.

“My advice for students who may be struggling or feeling isolated is to utilize every resource they may come across because a life in recovery is indescribably better than a life of hopelessness and isolation,” she said.

Makalynn, a member of the WVU Collegiate Recovery Program, will share more of her story when she and other University and Morgantown representatives take part in a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31, in the Gluck Theatre at the Mountainlair. The event is one of several at WVU planned in observance of Morgantown Overdose Awareness Day. The activities coincide with International Overdose Awareness Day, aimed at reducing the stigma of drug-related deaths and bringing attention to overdose issues.

WVU panelists include Jim Berry, D.O., medical director, WVU Medicine Chestnut Ridge Center Inpatient Acute Dual Diagnosis Program, and associate professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry; Mark Garofoli, assistant professor and pain management specialist in the School of Pharmacy; and Cathy Yura, director of the Collegiate Recovery Program. Also scheduled to participate are Steve Burton, CEO of First Choice Services, which operates the state’s Prescription Drug Abuse Quitline (1-844-HELP4WV); Laura Jones, executive director at Milan Puskar Health Right; and Ed Preston, Morgantown police chief. Dan Shook, director of the WVU and Greater Morgantown Safe Communities Initiative, and Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean for health sciences at WVU, will provide opening remarks.

Meanwhile, representatives from Collegiate Recovery, Students Against Destructive Decisions and other local organizations focused on substance abuse issues will have information tables.

More than just awareness

With West Virginia leading the nation in drug overdose deaths—35.5 deaths for every 100,000 people in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—organizers said turning the tide of opioid and opiate addiction and overdose deaths requires the attention, efforts and resources of everyone.

“The hope is that Morgantown Overdose Awareness Day will encourage many other local individuals and organizations to support and even join the efforts of the dedicated people already on the frontlines of this critical battle,” Herb Linn, deputy director of the Injury Control Research Center in the WVU School of Public Health, said. “West Virginia, Appalachia and most of the nation are in the grip of an epidemic of opioid and opiate addiction and overdose deaths. Sadly, this epidemic has reached into virtually everyone’s neighborhood, workplace, school and family, including here in Morgantown and Monongalia County.

“Morgantown Overdose Awareness Day is an opportunity not only to raise awareness of the terrible toll of substance abuse, but also to inform about the lifesaving and life-changing efforts of many local individuals and organizations who provide emergency response, emergency care, harm reduction, substance abuse treatment, recovery and humanitarian services to a large, often hidden population battling addiction.”   

Other Morgantown Overdose Awareness Day activities:

  • Rusty Doerr, simulation specialist at the David and Jo Ann Shaw Center for Simulation Training and Education for Patient Safety, will offer training at 8:30 p.m. in the Gluck Theatre on how to recognize and respond to an overdose as well as how to access and administer naloxone.
  • Shelly Barrick Parsons, Presbyterian campus pastor and executive director of the Harless Center, will lead a candlelight vigil at 9:30 p.m. at Oglebay Plaza on the Downtown Campus. The public is invited to remember those who have died and those in recovery. Participants may share their personal stories.
  • Collegiate Recovery is organizing a remembrance board in the Mountainlair, where people can post photos and messages about family and friends affected by drugs Aug. 29-31. Students and employees can pick up information and silver ribbons to wear to show their support.
  • The University and Morgantown communities are encouraged to post social media messages about Overdose Awareness Day using #‎OverdoseAware2016.