Olympia Mayor Pro Tem Clark Gilman emphasized the need for a dual-sided approach to combat drug addiction effectively, combining public health and law enforcement interventions as At Tuesday's meeting, the city council signed a proclamation designating August 31, 2023, as Overdose Awareness Day.
Gilman said treating addiction as a public health concern allows initiatives like safe injection sites. At the same time, law enforcement interventions can help disrupt the supply chain of harmful substances.
Councilmember Lisa Parshley agreed that addiction should be addressed as a mental health issue and approached with the same urgency as a life-threatening pandemic.
"I believe that any addiction is a mental health issue. We should be attacking it in that manner, just as we would for nicotine cigarettes,” Parshley said. “These are addictive substances.”
“Once you are in the claws of the addiction, it is very difficult to get out of it. We should be approaching it like we would the pandemic and looking at this as a life-threatening," Parshley added.
Olympia's proclamation calls for community members to raise awareness of drug overdose morbidity and mortality by reducing stigma through education, prevention, treatment, and recovery support for substance use disorder.
"Overdose Awareness Day is an opportunity for all Olympians to stand beside those who have loved ones to an overdose and those who have a substance use disorder and are diligently working toward recovery," stated the proclamation.
Katie Strozyk, Opioid Response coordinator at Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, said the county's task force has a multi-pronged and multi-sector response to the opioid overdose epidemic, which is moving forward to work in the community to try to reduce fatal overdoses to community members.
Strozyk invites everyone to attend the Overdose Awareness Day event at Heritage Park on August 31 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., where providers and agencies would be available to share different resources, tools, and services related to opioid overdose.
From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., the event would focus on memorial-based activities to honor those who recovered and recognize those who lost to a fatal overdose.
"This event is important to us as a community…we want to decrease the stigma around drug use and memorialize those who have unfortunately been lost to this epidemic," Strozyk said.
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