Isaiah House marks International Overdose Awareness Day with Danville event 

DANVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – Isaiah House Treatment Center and the Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, Inc. teamed up on Aug. 31 in Danville in recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day.

Officials and guests gathered under the pavilion at the Boyle County Extension Office to remember victims of fatal overdoses, discuss ways to prevent overdose deaths, and celebrate treatment and recovery initiatives.

Mark LaPalme, CEO and co-founder of Isaiah House, spoke about his own journey to recovery and shared a message of why the group gathered together on Tuesday.

LaPalme is celebrating more than 22 years sober after 27 years in active addiction. He is a survivor, he said, but so many do not survive.

“Last year, almost 100,000 of our best and brightest and most sensitive moms, dads, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands and friends didn’t make it,” LaPalme told the crowd after sharing his testimony. “We are here today because almost 2,000 of them were our fellow Kentuckians. We are here to honor them, and until you have fought the fight of addiction in some way, you will never understand the fierceness of that battle.”

According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy’s annual report, more than 1,964 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses in 2020, a 49% increase over 2019. In Boyle County, the state reported 12 fatal overdoses for 2020, up from eight reported the year prior.

A rise in illicit fentanyl within the drug supply and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are believed to have contributed to the increase in overdoses.

During a recent event celebrating treatment program graduates, Isaiah House President Mike Cox said his organization has continued to admit clients since the spring of 2020.

“We all know if we close our doors and people can’t access treatment, even more people will die,” Cox said.

Over the last four years, Isaiah House saw an increase in the number of clients it serves from more than a dozen counties. In Boyle County, 72 clients were served in 2020, up from 26 in 2019.

LaPalme has been on both sides of addiction in the last 49 years and said he was inspired by his own sobriety to help others. Tuesday’s awareness day was not a day of blame but rather a day of change.

“I have seen too many die. Too many families destroyed, too many kids with no parents,” LaPalme said. “We cannot and we will not stand by and watch another generation of the future decimated by the scourge of addiction.”

A moment of silence was held for those lost to addiction and Rise Up, an Isaiah House band, shared music. Community groups also set up at the Danville event to share information on local recovery resources.

Amy Anness, a staff member with the University of Kentucky Healing Communities Study, handed out doses of Narcan and showed visitors how to use it. Anness has been sober since April 2014 after years of drug and alcohol abuse.

Anness chose recovery, has rebuilt her life, has had her criminal record expunged and works with UK to hand out Narcan to give other people a chance to recover and do the same.

“If I can do this, there is not one other person on this planet that can’t do this,” she said.

Jordan Napier, who has been sober since Dec. 18, also shared his experience. The first time he overdosed, his parents found him. The second time he overdosed, his fiancée found him.

“I couldn’t imagine how that had to feel. She found me and hit me with the Narcan twice and gave me an opportunity to try and get clean,” Napier recalled. Napier said he is grateful to those who refused to give up on him.

“I hope we can continue to save people’s lives and give them an opportunity, a second, third and fourth chance. If they die, we will never be able to give them that chance,” he said. “People didn’t give up on me so I don’t think we should give up on them.”

The Danville event coincided with several others across the state and country, including participation from Isaiah House in events in Richmond and Winchester.

International Overdose Awareness Day started in 2001 and is the largest annual campaign to end overdose, honor those who have died, fight against addiction stigma and discuss overdose prevention.

“To those of you who are still in the madness but still alive, there is hope,” LaPalme said. “You can’t go back and change the past and create a new beginning but anyone can start today and create a brand new ending.”

Fatal overdoses by county in 2020

Boyle……………………12

Bullitt…………………..42

Fayette…………………150

Jefferson………………512

Mercer………………….7

Nelson………………….20

Spencer……………….7

Washington…………..<5

Information from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy 2020 report. Each county listed above saw an increase in fatal overdoses over 2019 except for Washington County, which reported less than 5 each year.

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