Black Balloon Day memorializes opioid overdose deaths

An archway of purple and black balloons created a solemn memorial for victims of opioid overdose deaths as part of National Black Balloon Day Monday afternoon in Gettysburg’s Lincoln Square. About 50 visitors stopped by, and 25 Naloxone kits and spray applications were distributed to help prevent some of those deaths.

Naloxone, a prescription drug found in a nasal spray or injectible form, can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and has been shown to save lives.

The Adams County Overdose Awareness Taskforce has noted a recent reduction in the number of deaths in the county due to opioids and fentanyl, a synthetic form of the drug. “In fact, we have zero deaths so far this year,” said Lisa Lindsey, data and prevention specialist for the Center for Youth and Community Development. There were five deaths in 2022, marking a decrease from the 14 deaths the previous year.

Adams County Commissioner James Martin, who attended the event, called it “A very successful evening connecting with the community.  Thanks to Collaborating for Youth staff and Overdose Awareness Taskforce for a great project,” he said.

Commissioner Marty Qually also attended, saying “I’m proud that our community has embraced the ideas that prevention and recovery are key parts to tackling the opioid epidemic.  Simply punishing and stigmatizing those who use illegal drugs will never solve the problem.”

National drug overdose deaths are up about 30 percent each year, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. Nearly 4,500 were recorded in Pennsylvania in 2021, about 72 percent higher than the national average. Although many overdose deaths are attributed to illegal drugs, 20 percent of those deaths result from taking prescription opioid medications.

Headed by Matthew Moon, the Overdose Awareness Task Force, in association with the Center for Youth and Community Services, provides education and information to raise awareness of the local problem. The priorities of the task force are to increase access and utilization of naloxone to save lives, ensure a continuum of care for county residents, reduce the supply of opioids in the county, and provide education regarding the signs of substance abuse, opioid use, treatment options, and recovery programs.

Featured image caption: Nearly 50 people attended Black Balloon Day to remember those who have died from opioid overdose deaths. From left, James Martin, Adams County Commissioner; Matthew Moon, Chairperson of the county’s Overdose Taskforce; Marty Qually, Adams County Commissioner; Odila Marimba, Respective Solutions; Meghan Riordan, Community Impact Coordinator, Center for Youth; Andrea Dolges, Executive Director, Center for Youth; and Chad-Alan Carr, Gettysburg Councilmember At-Large [Judi Seniura]

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Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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Matthew Anselmi
Matthew Anselmi
1 year ago

We were wondering if there are any other currently scheduled events revolving around substance use disorder and/or overdose awareness. Also, I’ve personally been asked several times in recent months about the status of Gettysburgs Mercy House and if there has been any progress in finding another partner to operate it with? Sitting empty, losing very temporary employment opportunities and seeing an end to the Warm Handoff program has been incredibly disheartening for the local actively addicted community. I have actually been contacted 3 times in the past several weeks by acquaintances, on the behalf of their friend or loved one.… Read more »

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