Chester County concluded International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31, with a message of HOPE, illuminated on the steps of the Historic Courthouse in West Chester, during its Night of Light event.
On Tuesday, Chester County joined communities around the world to encourage residents, businesses and organizations to raise awareness of the effects of opioid addiction, and reduce the stigma surrounding overdoses and drug-related deaths. Importantly, the County focused on remembering the lives of those lost to overdose, and acknowledged the grief felt by families and friends who have lost a loved one.
“This year, we are taking time to remember those that we have tragically lost to substance use disorders, and also bring a message of hope to those working toward long-term recovery, including family and friends who are supporting them,” said Vince Brown, Executive Director of the Chester County Department of Drug & Alcohol Services.
Guest speakers included the Chester County Commissioners, and Cathie O’Donnell, a member of the County’s Drug & Alcohol Advisory Board, who shared the story of her son, Shane O’Donnell, who died of a drug overdose in 2013 that developed from an addiction to painkillers prescribed for a back injury. Chris Brown, a Certified Recovery Specialist for the County’s COPE program, also spoke of his experiences in meeting with overdose survivors in the emergency room of hospitals in Chester County, to personally help them move to treatment.
Through Chester County’s innovative COPE program – Community Outreach and Prevention Education – overdose survivors who are being treated in the emergency room at all hospitals in Chester County can meet with a certified recovery specialist within an hour of coming into the ER. The peer specialist engages with the overdose survivor and provides personal support and a direct connection to treatment and recovery services.
The Night of Light event concluded with the placement of luminary bags that displayed personal messages by family and friends who lost someone they love to substance use disorder.
Chester County lost 101 people to accidental overdose in 2020. “Although we saw a slight decline in accidental overdoses last year in Chester County, substance use disorders are still extremely prevalent, and one life lost to the disease of addiction is one too many,” added Vince Brown.
Chester County recently announced the return of the Chester County Color 5K, an event that raises funds for the COPE Program, as well as raising awareness and reducing the stigma of substance uses disorder. The Chester County Color 5K will be held in Everhart Park in West Chester on Saturday morning, October 9th. For more information, and to register to run or walk, go to chesco.org/color5k.
For more information and resources on all drug and alcohol services and programs, visit the Chester County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services website: chesco.org/DrugandAlcohol, or call the Chester County Information and Referral line at 866-286-3767.