SAN JOSE, Calif. - Dozens of people gathered in San Jose at St. James Park Thursday for International Overdose Awareness Day.
Santa Clara County Public Health says it just received over $11 million from the CDC for drug overdose prevention. County officials say they’ll use the money to provide more supplies like Narcan and to help reduce the stigma surrounding substance abuse and overdose.
"Certainly the way we typically talk about substance users in our culture is shaming, stigmatizing. It is wrong and keeps people using drugs," said Katherine Swanson, advocate and emcee of the public awareness forum.
The message at Santa Clara County’s public, overdose reduction forum was summed up in one sentence: Every two days, someone in the county dies from fentanyl.
Melissa Carrasco attended the meeting and said she lost her nephew to an accidental drug overdose.
"He had no idea that he was sold a Percocet that was laced with fentanyl. He was left alone and didn’t even have a chance to get Naloxone or help to him. He passed away, unfortunately. He left behind two amazing little boys. My sister grieves every single day as well as we do," said Carrasco.
Naloxone can reverse a fentanyl overdose if taken right away. Multiple groups offered free educational materials, harm reduction tips and overdose prevention tools like Narcan and fentanyl test strips. They believe reducing the stigma associated with drug addiction is also key to helping people.
"What we’re trying to show is that people with a substance use disorder, have a treatable medical condition. Whether they are in recovery or they are actively using substances, they deserve our kindness and compassion," said Saskia Vandekamp, director of Community Engagement for Shatterproof.
County officials also talked about increasing outreach and enhancing programs that will reach more people in the community, people like Honers Silva who says losing someone to an overdose is something he’ll never forget.
"You build so much hatred towards the drugs and the epidemic that we have going on. It’s just very tragic to see one of my friends, one my age at 21, just go through this. That’s it. Cut his life short," Silva said.