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Clark County CARES kicks off eighth annual Drug Facts Week

Dr. Eric Yazel is in front of a cart of supplies at the Clark County Health Department's syringe exchange program.
Erica Peterson
Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel explains the different services the county's syringe exchange program offers in this 2020 file photo.

Grassroots community group Clark County CARES is kicking off its eighth annual Drug Facts Week tonight, with events planned around addiction education every day through Saturday.

The first event in 2016 came in response to a rise in opioid use and overdose deaths. Conversations then and since have centered around raising community awareness of the issue, educating lawmakers, reducing stigma surrounding addiction and sharing experiences.

Carolyn King, a co-founding member of the organization, said the group and event has evolved as community needs have shifted.

“We’re looking at solutions this year,” she said. “So a lot of our events are highlighting good things that are going on.”

She said that includes talks about new “problem-solving” courts in Clark County, other local and state programs and opportunities for employers to hire people in recovery including those who are coming out of jail or prison.

“Because you can get people treated and in recovery, but if they can't get a job, then you know their life is going to be very difficult,” she said.

King said overdose deaths reached an extraordinary high in 2016, so the focus then was trying to help keep people alive.

“And the work that's been done since then, by educating the community, getting people to work together, increasing access to Naloxone has saved a lot of lives,” she said.

Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel agreed, saying that some of the initiatives in harm reduction and addiction treatment that were considered cutting edge several years ago are now more standard practice.

He said while keeping people alive is still the first priority, it’s good to look beyond that, “looking at adverse childhood events, social determinants of health and some of the things that lead people down the substance use disorder pathway in the first place,” he said.

The week kicks off tonight with a panel on the state of substance misuse in the county, followed by events every day through Saturday.

On Thursday, attendees at a now sold out keynote luncheon will hear from Beth Macy, longtime journalist and author of the 2018 book “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America,” which tells the story of how Purdue Pharma contributed to the opioid crisis. She released “Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis” last year, which looks at solutions.

Macy said there are answers to solving the opioid and addiction crisis, but “part of the problem is we've gotten so hopeless about it,” she told LPM News in a recent interview.

She describes a scene in her latest book where a nurse practitioner meets a person enmeshed in IV drug use at night at a fast food restaurant. The provider tells the person he’s going to help him get a discounted prescription for medication assisted treatment.

“And he's telling him two things. One: You can get better…but two: Don’t disappear,” Macy said. “And that's really the answer. We have to go to these folks who are outside of our health care systems. And we have to go to them where they are. And that means even if they're still using, we’ve got to be OK with that. This theory I'm describing is called harm reduction. It means going to them where they are treating them as human beings, asking ‘how can we help you’ and then actually offering the help.

“We can do this. We're just not doing it to the scale to match the scale of the crisis.”

Thursday night, Jay Chaudhary, director of the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction will present the state’s Behavioral Health Commission report and what changes this could bring for care in the state.

On Friday, there will be a screening of the film “The Addict’s Wake,” followed by a family fun event Saturday morning and a candlelight vigil Saturday evening at the Big Four Bridge, to remember and honor those lost to or suffering from addiction issues.

For the full schedule, visit Clark County CARES on Facebook. Some events will be-in person and streamed, some will be in-person only.

  • Monday, Feb. 6, 6 to 7:30 p.m. — Panel on state of substance misuse in Clark County
  • Tuesday, Feb. 7, 6 to 7:30 p.m. — Discussion on new local and state programs related to law enforcement and judicial systems interacting with people with substance use disorder
  • Wednesday, Feb. 8, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Presentation on opportunities for employers to hire people in recovery
  • Thursday, Feb. 9, Noon to 2:30 p.m. — Lunch keynote with journalist and author Beth Macy (reservations full)
  • Thursday, Feb. 9, 6 p.m. — Dinner keynote with Jay Chaudhary, director of the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction
  • Friday, Feb. 10, 7 p.m. — Screening of the film “The Addict’s Wake”
  • Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — A family fun day centered around addiction prevention
  • Saturday, Feb. 11, 6 p.m. — Candlelight vigil to remember and honor those lost to and suffering from addiction.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec, Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.