Overdose Awareness Day Event Seeks to Destigmatize, Educate Community


The stigma surrounding drug overdoses makes it difficult for survivors, the loved ones of those who died from an overdose and the community at large to discuss and address the myriad of emotions associated with the issue. 

In an effort to destigmatize the issue and honor those who have succumbed to overdose, an Overdose Awareness Day event was held at George Washington Park in Centralia on Aug. 31, which was National Overdose Awareness Day, in a partnership with Lewis County Public Health & Social Services. The event was created by Community integrated Health Services and hosted in partnership with Gather Church.

Gather Community Services in Centralia provides services and support for those recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) year-round and distributes Narcan, also known as naloxone, a medication that rapidly reverses opioid overdoses. 

While providing support to one woman who survived five overdoses due to people recognizing she was overdosing and administering naloxone, Pastor Cole Meckle of the associated Gather Church learned the people who saved her life had gotten the naloxone from Gather Community Services. 

Meckle was already emotional from the woman’s story, but that detail had a profound impact on him. 

“It’s just, to think that we maybe wouldn’t have chosen to distribute Narcan in the community,” he told The Chronicle on Tuesday. 

The decision was easy at the time Gather started distributing naloxone a couple of years ago, but it may not have been if the controversy and stigma that now surrounds the lifesaving drug was prevalent then. 

“It just goes to show, you can’t let the naysayers determine what you’re going to do if you’re doing the right thing,” Meckle said. 

The woman who told her story to Meckle was one of several speakers who shared their experiences with overdoses, whether as a survivor themselves or a relative of someone who died, with the community during the Overdose Awareness Day event.

Also at the event was a resource fair with representatives from organizations across Lewis County, Narcan training and distribution, and lunch. 

Drug-related overdose deaths in Washington surpassed 2,000 in 2021, a more than 66% increase compared to 2019, according to released data from the state Department of Health (DOH).

Lewis County has seen a similar dramatic increase in overdose deaths in that timeframe. The Lewis County Coroner’s Office recorded 20 fatal drug overdoses in 2021, down from 30 recorded in 2020 but still significantly higher than the five fatal drug overdoses recorded in 2019. 

While Wednesday’s event was primarily focused on overdose awareness, it also hosted free hepatitis C testing from ElimiNation Tour, which provided additional testing for the viral disease at Gather Community Services on Tuesday. 

Like SUD, the stigma surrounding hepatitis C often prevents people from seeking care, according to Meckle. 

“It’s just one of those things that can be a silent killer for people,” Meckle said of hepatitis C. 

Hepatitis C is a virus that can cause liver damage and is spread through infected blood. 

Some people don’t realize they have hepatitis C until the damage to their liver is so severe they need a liver transplant, said Mary Beth Davies, of 1st Degree, which does marketing work for the health agency running the ElimiNation Tour, AbbVie Health.  

The ElimiNation Tour spent several days in Centralia in August of 2021, around the time of last year’s Overdose Awareness Day event. 

“We were just trying to have different touch points in order to let people know that there is treatment for hepatitis C, and you don’t have to live with a disease that can impact your life year over year,” said Davies. 

“It was wonderful last year and again this year to partner with AbbVie Health and ElimiNation Tour,” said Meckle. 

Gather offers services and support to those recovering from SUD and those seeking care for hepatitis C at 727 N. Tower Ave. in Centralia. Anyone is welcome to stop by or call at 360-827-0264.