PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles Citizen Action Network is preparing to host the fifth annual International Overdose Awareness Day Walk in Port Angeles on Saturday.
The aim this year is to promote a message of hope and positivity for people who are still struggling with addiction, said Monica Farris and Danny Wollam, Port Angeles Citizen Action Network (PA CAN) board members.
“In the past years we have talked about how there is help out there, but we’ve never shown anybody what that help is,” Farris said.
“So this year, before our guest speakers, I want to invite … an outreach person from each of the treatment centers … to come up on stage.”
The walk is scheduled to start in front of the Clallam County Courthouse bell tower at 5 p.m. Saturday. The group will walk north and finish at City Pier, where there will be multiple speakers.
The walk is just one of hundreds planned across the world on International Overdose Awareness Day.
Sponsors this year include PA CAN, Lower Elwha Tribe, Klallam Counseling, Oxford House and the Revolution Church.
Farris said she has confirmed that people representing Specialty Services II, Olympic Personal Growth Center, Reflections, Klallam Counseling, Oxford, North Olympic Healthcare Network and Peninsula Behavioral Health will attend the event.
Farris and Wollam, who have four years and three and a half years sober respectively, know many of the people helping others to get sober and said they wanted people to be aware of the help that is available.
Farris and Wollam are asking that people not bring signs this year, primarily because signs in the past have had negative messages against drug use instead of positive messages promoting recovery and hope.
“We’re trying to stay away from any negativity, any negative connotation,” Wollam said. “We’re not trying get a negative message that we hate this stuff, the message we’re trying to get out is that there’s help out there and here’s a group of people that is doing something different with their lives.”
Clallam County has seen a greater impact per capita from the opioid epidemic than almost any other county in the entire Pacific Northwest.
The county received nearly 38 million pain pills from 2006 through 2012 at a rate of 76.6 pills per person per year, a greater rate per person than any other county in Washington.
The opioid-related death rate in Clallam County was 16.5 per 100,000 from 2012 to 2016 according to state Department of Health statistics.
County data shows that last year there were only two opioid-related deaths, while there were 16 opioid-related deaths in 2016 and 10 opioid-related deaths in 2017.
Last year, 30 overdoses were reported in Clallam County.
In recent years, treatment options have expanded on the North Olympic Peninsula and more providers began offering medication-assisted treatment. New medication-assisted treatment centers are preparing to open in Port Angeles and Sequim.
“We’re there to honor the people that we’ve lost,” Wollam said. “As a community we’ve lost people and we’re going to continue to lose people, and that’s the sad reality of it, but let’s be there and honor them in what we are doing to change our lives.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].