“From 2014-2018, 22 people in Dent County died of drug overdoses. Twelve of those were opioid overdoses," Executive Director of the Meramec Regional Planning Commission Bonnie Prigge said.

The Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) Rural Opioid Initiative in partnership with Mid-MO Addiction Awareness Group (MAAG) will host an opioid use disorder awareness walk in Salem, beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

The walk aims at providing awareness for opioid use disorder. MRPC’s rural initiative works to educate, increase awareness and identify prevention strategies for opioid use disorder throughout the Meramec Region. Resource information will be available at the walk. Area residents are encouraged to join the walk or stop by the information booth to learn about resources for individuals and families suffering from opioid use disorder. 

Participants will meet at the Dent County Health Department, 1010 E. Scenic Rivers Boulevard in Salem, where sign-ups will be available. The walkers will then travel right out of the parking lot and proceed straight along East Scenic Rivers Boulevard. A water break is planned at the Dent County Family Services. Participants will then return to the health department utilizing the same route. It is requested that all pets be left at home. 

“We are excited to work with MAAG to bring SUD awareness walks to our region,” said Bonnie Prigge, executive director of MRPC. “From 2014-2018, 22 people in Dent County died of drug overdoses. Twelve of those were opioid overdoses. When we look at Dent and its neighboring counties of Crawford, Maries and Phelps, there were 117 overdose deaths for that timeframe with 72 of those deaths being opioid overdoses.”


Statistics for 2019 are not yet finalized, Prigge added. 


“Those who lose their lives to opioids are only a small portion of those who suffer from Substance Use Disorder, and it has a tremendous impact on families and communities,” Prigge said. “The purpose of the walk is making others aware of SUD in our communities as MRPC and its partners look for solutions that will aid with prevention, treatment and recovery.”


MAAG’s mission is to raise community awareness, share accurate information and break the stigma that surrounds substance use disorder. 

“SUD awareness walks bring light to the issue of substance use disorder to the communities where they take place,” said Christa Harmon, MRPC Community Development Specialist Assistant. “We walk together, not ashamed of our loved ones who suffer from SUD. We walk together to be a voice for those who have lost their lives due to overdose. We walk together to show recovery can happen.” 

Another walk is planned in Belle on Oct. 3. 

For more information on the walk, contact Harmon at 573-265-2993 or by email at charmon@meramecregion.org. Pre-registration is not required.

MRPC is in the second year of a federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to collectively reduce the morbidity and mortality rate related to opioid overdoses in our rural communities. This grant is specific to Crawford, Dent, Maries and Phelps counties. 

The awareness walk is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $738,500 with zero percentage financed with non-governmental sources.