HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) — As drug overdoses and deaths continue to rise across the country, two events in Huntington County are looking to educate the community on the issue.
On Saturday, the community will raise awareness about an increase in drug overdoses by marching from Huntington North High School to the Huntington County Courthouse. The walk is being organized by a newly formed group called Huntington United Against Overdoses.
“We’re going to march downtown Huntington and then have a candlelight vigil for those who may have lost a loved one,” said Renee Shultz, an organizer of the walk. “Also, we got some life testimonies coming.”
The group will start to gather at the high school at 6 p.m. and plans to start walking at 6:30 p.m. Once at the courthouse, they will offer a free chili dinner and give the crowd a chance to share their own testimonies along with planned ones.
Jami Karst-Fox, who battled addiction for almost 20 years, said stories of people who have recovered from addiction can inspire those currently struggling.
“Some people think that if they are addicted, it’s kind of like an embarrassment to maybe even themselves or their family,” Karst-Fox said. “But they are a person too. If you’re breathing, there’s hope for you.”
Jerry LaCroix helped organize Huntington United Against Overdoses after his nephew died of an overdose on Sept. 23.
“He was 16th overdose and death in Huntington County this year,” LaCroix said. “That’s two a month and one’s too many. We just got to come together as a community and let them know that if they’re doing drugs, there’s help out there and they won’t be judged and that if they’re selling the stuff that’s killing people, it’s time to get out of this town.”
Huntington County Sheriff Chris Newton said in 2021 there have been nearly 20 overdose deaths, which he added is similar to previous years. However, he reports that overall overdoses are up with 78 so far this year.
“The number is very staggering in comparison to previous years,” Newton said. “I think what’s helped save a lot of these folks is the first responders and family members have access to Narcan. We’re seeing a lot of times before we even make the scene, family members or friends have already administered doses of Narcan as they find these people.”
The department will address how people can identify drugs, specifically fentanyl and what resources are available at a community meeting on Nov. 17. It will be held in the main auditorium at Huntington North High School at 6 p.m.
“Every single county is dealing with this fentanyl issue and it’s across the nation,” Newton said. “There’s a lot of people who just don’t know what this drug is, what it looks like, how it affects people, and what they can do to help. So we’ve set this up and we’re going to do that. Hopefully, we can get a lot of information out there to the folks.”