Dozens of people came to the Barton County Courthouse Square Friday evening to share their stories of recovery and to stop the stigma associated with the disease of substance abuse disorder.
Recovery Out Loud - Every Voice Matters, was hosted by Rise Up Central Kansas, a task force of the Central Kansas Partnership, as part of National Recovery Month.
“The recovery community in Great Bend is really strong and proud,” said Rise Up member Skye Mai. She lives in an Oxford House, a transitional home that provides a safe, clean living environment and a network of support to offer hope to those recovering from addiction.
The evening started with a Narcan Awareness March, intended to raise awareness of the medication Narcan, which can be administered to reverse the effects of an opiod overdose.
Chanting “Narcan saves lives!” and carrying signs, area residents proceeded around the square.
Information shared by Mai and others involved in the recovery community provided insight into the opioid epidemic.
More than 93,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose in 2020, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This record number of fatal overdoses – 30% higher than in 2019 – was attributed in part to the fact that more street drugs were laced with fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine.
Narcan can be used to treat an opiod overdose. Because they are considered “safe houses,” everyone living in one of the Oxford Houses is required to learn how to administer it, Mai said. Members of the local Oxford Sober Living group gave training and provided information on how to get a free Narcan kit.
The agency DCCCA provides free naloxone (Narcan) nasal spray and training to community organizations and any Kansas resident. Learn more online at dccca.org/naloxone-program/.
United not Divided
The recovery community is also planning a United not Divided kickball tournament with local law enforcement and public safety personnel to raise Narcan awareness, Mai said. “We’ll be on the same teams.” There will be four teams and three games to determine the winner on Saturday, Oct. 2, from 6-9 p.m. at the north field of Brit Spaugh Park. The public is invited to come and cheer the team members on.
Friday’s gathering was also a time to celebrate resilience. More than 600 luminaries lined the sidewalks in the square. They were prepared by people in many groups: Stepping Stones, Barton County Health Department, Barton County Detention Center, the Girls and Boys Homes, The Center for Counseling and Zero Reasons Why, The Dream Center, Central Kansas Community Corrections, Core Communities, Kansas Children’s Service League, Central Kansas Partnership Youth Crew, Juvenile Services, Oxford Sober Living, Family Crisis Center and Pilot Club, said Rise Up coordinator Amy Ferguson.
“Even during COVID all these agencies understood the importance of addressing substance abuse,” said Ferguson, who works at the health department and has also recovered from substance abuse disorder.
“Rise Up is a grassroots organization that includes community agencies and, most importantly, those with the lived experience of substance use disorder, mental illness, trauma and poverty. Together, barriers are removed and real conversations had,” she said. “Rise Up provides a unique opportunity for all involved to learn truths or unlearn stigma, on both sides of the fence. No longer an ‘us against them’ mentality, but a ‘nothing about us without us’ thinking.”