On November 17, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control released annual data on the number of unintentional overdose deaths in the United States. For the first time, this number topped 100,000 people.
A number this large makes it easy to be desensitized to what it all means. To offer perspective as a North Carolinian, that would be more than the entire population of Asheville or Greenville, almost twice the population of the Outer Banks, or five times the population of our beautiful mountain city of Boone. These are our friends, family, and neighbors. These are also the people who were known, and hopefully loved, by many others who lived life with them at the dinner table, in schools, at work, or sat beside them at church.
We are experiencing a collective grief and it is made even more heart-wrenching because these deaths are preventable. We have proven tools that can prevent overdose death, such as the ability to check drugs for lethal additives like fentanyl, increasing the access to Naloxone/Narcan the overdose reversal medication, making medication assisted treatment accessible and acceptable, and resourcing overdose prevention sites. For over 50 years, we have been trying to criminalize or incarcerate our way out of this public health crisis. Now is the time to invest in proven and human-centered solutions. As people of faith, we believe that everyone is made in God’s image and are children of God. Everyone deserves the chance to recover and to reach their full potential. We grieve these preventable deaths. Below is a prayer dedicated to God’s children that we have lost. This prayer was written by Blyth Barnow, Harm Reduction Faith Manager, with Faith in Public Life and the founder of Femminary.
Prayer source: https://femminary.com/materials/