Black balloons, many inscribed with the name of a family member or friend gone too soon, floated through the sky in Russell Springs yesterday afternoon.
At SPARC Recovery Center in Russell Springs, clients, family, friends, and community members gathered for a balloon release yesterday to remember those who fell victim to drug abuse and bring awareness to the issue.
It’s an issue that many have been affected by. In a room of nearly 100 people at the event, more than three-quarters raised their hand when asked if they knew someone who had a drug overdose. In 2020, nearly 2,000 Kentuckians lost their lives to drug overdoses.
Scott Wells, a co-founder of SPARC, told WJRS News the balloon release, along with a NARCAN training that took place, is all part of raising awareness about drug overdoses and lifting the stigma surrounding addiction.
“We’re just trying to spread awareness about overdoses and the drug problem we have in our community,” Wells said. “One of the things we wanted to do was bring awareness to the fact that people are dying all around us and there is more that we can do.”
The event was attended by several local leaders including Russell County Jailer Bobby Dunbar and several jail staff members, Russell Springs Mayor Eddie Thomas, Russell Springs Police Chief Tim Pierce and Assistant Chief Bryan Sheperd, Jamestown Police Chief Jeff Kerns, and Russell County Sheriff Derek Polston.
Wells said it takes everyone, from people working on the frontlines of the addiction crisis like himself, to government officials to everyday community members to address the problem. One key part of that is lifting the stigma around addiction.
“We need to start lifting that stigma because, until it hits home, people kind of overlook it,” Wells said. “We’ve got children that are battling addiction, young men and women, mothers and fathers. People of all walks of life.”
Raising awareness is just one piece of what Wells calls “Russell Ready”, his mission to help the community be ready to play a role in addressing the issue of substance abuse.
“Are we ready to face what comes tomorrow when it comes to addiction? With our police, with our ambulance services, with our treatment center, we all have the responsibility to do our part,” Wells said.
Wells said he wants to see a higher prevalence of NARCAN in the community. NARCAN, a brand name for the drug naloxone, is commonly used in the form of a nasal spray that has the ability to “bring a person back” from an opioid overdose, whether fentanyl, heroin, or other common opioids.
“We want to have it in businesses and all over the community, and have people that know how to utilize it,” Wells said. “It’s not if someone is going to overdose in the bathroom of your business, it could just be a matter of when.”
Wells said it’s important to realize that drug overdoses happen, and one never knows who it is going to be.
“When an overdose happens, that is somebody’s son or daughter laying there or someone’s mother and father,” Wells said. “We want to be in a position where we have NARCAN available and can save their life.”