Addiction recovery groups spread awareness of overdose deaths

(ABC 6 News) – August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, and addiction recovery groups in Minnesota want to fight the stigma of overdose and addiction.

That’s why they’re joining together to remember those who have lost their lives to addiction and provide hope and help for those who are still struggling.

“It’s a day of remembrance to honor those we have lost to overdose and to stand together in solidarity in their honor,” said Rick Utley, the co-founder of Doc’s Recovery House in Rochester, which helps addicts making the very first step toward recovery.

The Austin Positive Action Coalition, Mower County Opioid Committee, and Recovery is Happening groups joined together in Austin to spread the message that overdose deaths are preventable.

“To end the stigma. Let people know that we don’t have to hide behind this,” said Shirleen Voigt, a member of the Mower County Opioid Committee.

Voigt has been in recovery for four and a half years and she wants other addicts to know it’s okay to be honest about their struggles.

“That’s one of the first things, is just ending the shame behind it. The shame and the guilt, and I know as an addict myself, I suffered for a lot of years with shame and guilt,” said Voigt.

Law enforcement also came out to show their support for the cause.

“We want everyone to enjoy their lives. We want everyone to be safe. So I think that if I come as this role, wearing a T-shirt, being able to stand with them and talk with all the community, kinda breaks down some of those barriers,” said Blake Temp, a Probation and Parole Officer for the Department of Corrections in Austin.

In Rochester, Doc’s Recovery House gave out candles to anyone who wanted to honor a loved one they lost to overdose.

Utley has a message for anyone still actively struggling with addiction.

“Never use alone. Carry Narcan with you. If you’re not here, we can’t save you,” said Utley.

In honor of International Overdose Awareness Day, the CDC announced it is providing a total of $279 million to 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 40 local health departments across the country.

That money will go toward preventing future overdose deaths.

Mower County Opioid Committee will have a similar event in September in honor of National Recovery Month.