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International Overdose Awareness Day

Fifteen people died each day as a result of a drug overdose last year according to state statistics. The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports that so far in 2023 there have been almost 2,000 estimated drug overdose deaths. These rising numbers have led organizations to not only up their recovery and harm reduction efforts but also to raise more awareness and educate the public on how to help those suffering. Every August 31st, the world somberly celebrates international overdose awareness day.

“This is a global day of remembrance for those that have lost their life to overdose and to hold space for their families, Really to reduce the stigma that comes with substance use disorder. We know that these folks died of a disease that was unfortunately incurable in their lifetime however substance use disorder is a curable disease and recovery is a reality for many people.”

Organizations work to distribute Narcan into the community in order to prevent overdose deaths and so far, county numbers have been trending down. Peter Loehner, a case manager with Personal Solutions, a Bedford county group that helps those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, tells us that addiction can happen to anybody.

“People in addiction, or people with substance use issues are not homeless,” said Loehner. “They’re not living under bridges, they’re not living in their cars. They are doctors, lawyers, they are people working for the local drug and alcohol office. We’re normal people, it can happen to anybody.”

Jamie Hershberger was just 43 years old when he died from an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2018. Now his mother, Sandi Hershberger is a facilitator for Parents of Addicted Loved Ones, a Bedford county support group.

“When my journey started with my son struggling, there’s such a stigma regarding drug use and people that are struggling, The whole world is ready to write them off and say no hope. They’re lost. Don’t waste your time. They’re someone’s son. They’re someone’s husband, boyfriend, father, uncle, grandchild. It impacts more than just one person. It impact an entire family, and entire community.”

Organizers tell us that it takes a community to help lead people into recovery and that providing support and compassion is one of the most important things you can do.

“Ignorance is so sad and so is being judgmental, People would spend their time better educating themselves on how to help because if we could come together as a community and society and realize that the more treatment that these people receive, the more support that they receive and I’m not talking money financial, I’m just talking emotional support. What my son struggled with relationships and people that just turned on him was heartbreaking and I realize that myself because I had people do that to us as well as a family. So, I just want people to be more educated, understanding, because we could just help so many.”

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