The statistics are startling. Here in Erie County, there was a 57% increase in confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020. Nationally there was a 30% increase. The trajectory for 2021 is not any better: as of July 14, there were 85 confirmed opioid-related deaths and as many as 75 more once full toxicology reports are reviewed. While tragic, death from overdose is also preventable with education and intervention.

Spectrum Health and Human Services will present a free evening of education and information on Monday, August 30, 5pm to 6pm at Veterans Park in West Seneca (1250 Union Rd. behind the Town Hall). Not One More – Stand Together to End Overdose is a community collaboration on the day before International Overdose Awareness Day.

Headlining the evening is a free concert by The Patti Parks Band at 5pm. South Buffalo native Patti Parks is a world-renowned blues singer and the founder of Nursin’ Blues, a music therapy program that helps high risk youth cope with the emotions as they recover from drug addiction. She’s also the mom of a young man who lost his life to an overdose in 2019. She said, “It is imperative that we as a community stand together in our fight to save those who suffer from chemical dependency. The strongest force we have is through education. I encourage everyone who has lost a child as I have or those who seek self-help and empowerment, please join me on this memorable day in solidarity.”

Also happening in the park, the Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force will have NARCAN information and a limited supply of NARCAN kits with education provided by certified trainers. NARCAN, when properly used, can rapidly reverse the ill effects of opioid drugs and prevent death.

Representatives from Nursin’ Blues, BestSelf Behavioral Health, WNY Blues Society, Lancaster Depew Addiction Prevention Coalition FOCUS, Spectrum Health’s C.A.R.E.S. program, and crisis counselors from NY Project Hope will also be stationed at informational tables. Food trucks and a remembrance pinwheel garden complete the night.

Cindy Voelker, Spectrum Health’s Associate CEO said, “We hope you will join us at this very important event. We are so fortunate to have Patti and The Patti Parks Band with us to commemorate the memories of the loved ones and members of our community we have lost. We also want to spread hope for others going forward. I personally know the pain that comes from losing someone before their time to this epidemic we are continuing to fight.”

On Tuesday, August 31 – which is actually International Overdose Awareness Day – NARCAN trainers from Spectrum Health will be on hand at the final “Food Truck Tuesday” of the season at Larkin Square from 5pm to 8pm. The Buffalo LIT (Landmark Illumination Team) sites – including Buffalo’s iconic City Hall dome – will be lit purple that evening as a visual reminder, and Niagara Falls will be bathed in purple light that night from 9:45pm to 10pm.

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