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The Healing Hearts Collaborative hosted its third annual Overdose Awareness Vigil for Cortland County on August 31st, International Opioid Overdose Awareness Day.

This Overdose Awareness Vigil serves as an opportunity for the Cortland County community to remember the loved ones they have lost and to promote awareness on overdose prevention strategies, including harm reduction.

MATTERS’ Marketing Coordinator, Lucy Connery, spoke during the vigil on the importance of harm reduction strategies to improve health outcomes for people who use drugs (PWUD).

Other speakers for the vigil included an individual in recovery, a parent who lost their child due to an overdose, and New York State Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles.

During the Overdose Awareness Vigil, Assemblymember Kelles mentions that since the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been more cases of mental health and substance use disorders across the U.S.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), there were over 100,000 overdose deaths across the United States in 2021.

Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas used to reduce the negative consequences of any health behavior, including drug use.

Naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan, is an overdose-reversing medication that has recently been approved for over-the-counter (OTC) use. Naloxone and other harm reduction strategies, like drug testing strips and clean syringe exchange programs, reduce the risk of an opioid overdose. It is important for PWUD to always have naloxone on hand and to never use alone so that in case of an overdose, 911 can be contacted immediately.

Access free harm reduction supplies, including fentanyl test strips, xylazine test strips, and naloxone by visiting MATTERS’ harm reduction page.