PORT ANGELES — Fatal drug overdose is an issue that affects mainstream society, said Ann Miller, a social worker who is among the organizers of the second annual Overdose Awareness Day rally, planned in Port Angeles on Tuesday.
The rally will offer all who have been affected by overdose in Clallam County a chance to publicly mourn and help the community understand that it isn’t a fringe issue, according to Miller.
”No one is immune,” she said.
“With the number of overdose fatalities growing, [the rally] is also a chance to raise awareness in our community and remember those who lost their lives due to overdose.”
The rally will begin at 5:15 p.m. on the steps of the Clallam County Courthouse, which fronts Lincoln Street across from the Safeway store.
Parking is available at 223 E. Fourth St.
The group will walk to City Pier to hear comments from Joe DeScala, director and pastor of Mended Church in Port Angeles; Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict; and Chuck Henke, who is a retired corrections officer from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
The group also will hear from family members of those who have died of drug overdoses.
“Community members will be encouraged to share their personal stories of loss to overdose and will be given time and space to experience a group silence (along with candles) to honor those lost,” Miller said.
Clallam County Department of Health and Human Services Public Health will staff a booth with information on overdose prevention, she said.
International Overdose Awareness Day has been a key remembrance event for those who have died from fatal drug overdoses since 2001.
The inaugural Port Angeles event was in August 2015. It is sponsored by Peninsula Behavioral Health.
“Thousands of people worldwide will stand alongside the friends and families of fatal overdose victims to reflect on those who have been lost,” Miller said.
“The event is organized on the understanding that no one need feel shame or disgrace over a drug overdose.”
Silver ribbon badges and a limited number of electric candles and signs will be available for participants to carry, Miller said.
Signs can be made for the rally; they should embody the spirit of the event, raising awareness and reducing stigma, she added.
Silver or gray shirts are encouraged as attire but not required.
Silver is the internationally recognized color associated with the International Overdose Awareness Day campaign.
Clallam County’s overdose death rate was 29.0 per 100,000 people in 2013, while the state rate was 14.8 per 100,000, according to U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer in February.
And the numbers are rising, according to county health officials, who were the first in the state to mandate reporting of opioid overdose.
Health officials reported 41 opioid drug overdoses, including five fatalities, in the first six months of 2016.
Seventy-three percent of the known overdoses between Jan. 1 and June 30 were caused by heroin. The rest were the result of prescription medications with brand names like Vicodin, Percocet or OxyContin, according to the new data.
Jefferson County’s overdose death rate is lower than Clallam County’s but higher than the state average, according to the county public health department.
In both North Olympic Peninsula counties, the death rate from opioids is higher than the state’s.
Across Washington, the rate was 8.4 lost per 100,000 in population, according to figures reported in 2015.
To find out about other Overdose Awareness events around the globe, see www.overdoseday.com.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].
Reporter Rob Ollikainen contributed to this story.