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Advocacy, Action are Goals of Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31

Make Mississippi OD Free will be one of many organizations around the world participating in International Overdose Awareness Day on Wednesday.

The day’s purpose is to focus attention on rising overdose-related deaths and to offer ways that people can take action to prevent overdoses and save lives.

“The overdose crisis is taking a tragic toll in our state, but the message we want Mississippians to hear is that there are actions they can take to reverse the trend,” said Jan Dawson, program director, Mississippi Public Health Institute. “If you or someone you know is at risk of overdosing, you are not alone. There are resources you can turn to for help. That’s the story we’re telling on International Overdose Awareness Day and every day.”

In 2021, 10 people in Lafayette County died from drug overdoses and another 16 overdoses were reported where the patients survived. The prevalent drugs used in the ODs were “fake” 30mg Percocets that were pressed with Fentanyl.

Gov. Tate Reeves joined in the overdose awareness effort and proclaimed August 31 as “Overdose Awareness Day” in Mississippi, and in the proclamation recognized the need for “the further development and implementation of drug overdose prevention initiatives in communities throughout the state.”

The awareness day observance is only the latest in a series of initiatives launched this year by Make Mississippi OD Free that are designed to inform Mississippians about overdose prevention and intervention efforts. Make Mississippi OD Free has participated with many other partners across the state in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, promoted the benefits of naloxone (an opioid blocker) and naloxone distribution and developed the odfree.org website.

The website is a comprehensive source of information and data about overdoses and overdose prevention, intervention and treatment, and can help guide parents, teens, families and those seeking help for their addiction. Visitors to the site will be able to find out where to “take back” their unused prescription drugs, ask for a naloxone kit, find resources and treatment options in their area and request a town hall meeting for their community.

The statistics tell a grim story: Overdoses are now the leading cause of death among U.S. adults 18-45, and in Mississippi, drug overdose deaths rose by 49% in one year from 2019-2020. Fentanyl-related deaths have more than tripled among children 10 to 14 since 2019, and over 70% of drug overdoses in Mississippi involve illicit fentanyl.

Another important part of Make Mississippi OD Free’s outreach is to bring real-time localized data to communities so that they can act quickly to combat spikes in usage or deaths. Make Mississippi OD Free plans a series of town hall meetings in the fall to help Mississippians take action against the overdose crisis in their communities. 

“Awareness is the foundation of action, and that’s why Make Mississippi OD Free is using multiple platforms to reach as many people as possible,” Dawson said. “In many ways, the effort comes down to individual action, and we are providing tools and resources to help every Mississippian prevent overdoses and save lives.”

Make Mississippi ODFree is a multiagency statewide partnership focused on overdose data collection and overdose prevention and intervention. Administered by the Mississippi Department of Health in partnership with the Mississippi Public Health Institute, the program is supported by a federal grant initiative funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program’s purpose, called Overdose Data to Action (OD2A), is to collect comprehensive and timely data on nonfatal and fatal overdoses to inform OD prevention and response efforts nationwide.

Data for the initiative is provided by the Mississippi Opioid and Heroin Data Collaborative, a multiagency partnership among the Mississippi State Department of Health, Mississippi Department of Mental Health, Mississippi Board of Pharmacy Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, Mississippi Department of Public Safety-Bureau of Narcotics and the Mississippi Public Health Institute.

Learn more at https://odfree.org.

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