COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – More than 6,000 flags dot the lawn outside of Columbus Public Health on Parsons Avenue for International Overdose Awareness Day. The display includes 804 white flags representing those who died from drug overdoses in Franklin County and 5,826 purple flags representing the reported non-fatal overdoses.
“This really shows you the magnitude of the disease of addiction,” said Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts.
CPH was among the agencies and health advocacy groups observing International Overdose Awareness Day with a press conference and community events. The health department hosted a half dozen pop-up sites distributing overdose reversal drug naloxone, commonly known by its brand name Narcan.
“These things happen every day, so I’d like to be able to help,” said Gamely Hassan-Nasser, who picked up a Narcan kit outside of the Franklin County Courthouse.
She explained she’s seen individuals overdose near her home and work and had been looking to equip herself with the lifesaving drug.
“It was on my to-do list. So it was great to see them out there today,” she said. “It saves a life.”
2020 was an especially challenging year for individuals struggling with mental illness and addiction.
“The uncertainty and the stress of the pandemic has made it harder for people living with the disease of addiction,”
Dr. Roberts explained.
She said CPH and other groups have been trying to conduct outreach events and making telehealth services available for people in need because of the pandemic isolation. She also explained overdoses are preventable with both awareness and lifesaving tools like Narcan.
“The disease of addiction is real,” Dr. Roberts said. “There could be people in their lives right now who are struggling with it or know someone who is.”
You can find a list of local addiction resources and how to receive Narcan free of charge by clicking on this link.