MRPC to host opioid use disorder awareness walk in St. James

RDN REPORTS
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 St. James on Saturday, Aug. 1 beginning at 10 a.m.The walk aims at providing awareness for opioid use disorder.

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 St. James on Saturday, Aug. 1 beginning at 10 a.m. 

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 persons and families suffering from opioid use disorder. 

Participants will meet at the St. James City Park, using the James Lane entrance where sign-ups will be available. The walkers will travel left out of the city park onto south Jefferson Street where participants will remain on sidewalks and travel to the corner lot at Aida Street and Jefferson St./Hwy 68 where there will be a water and rest stop. Participants will then return to the park 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, 47 people in Phelps County died of drug overdoses. Twenty-nine of those were opioid overdoses. When we look at Phelps and its neighboring counties of Crawford, Dent and Maries, 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.” 

Persons needing more information on the walk can 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. The views expressed do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

Meanwhile, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services recently reported that opioid overdose deaths in 2019 decreased from 2018, marking the first year since 2015 that Missouri has experienced a decrease in opioid overdose deaths. The number of deaths due to opioid overdose decreased by 3.4% compared to the previous year. From 2015 to 2016 there was a 35% increase in opioid overdose deaths in the state, followed by a 5% increase in 2017, and a 19% increase in 2018.

In 2018, the number of opioid overdose deaths in the state peaked at 1,132 deaths, according to the department. In total for 2019, there were 1,094 opioid overdose deaths, with 224 heroin deaths and 870 opioid deaths that were non-heroin related. This shows a continuing trend of a total decrease in heroin deaths as fentanyl is becoming more prevalent as an illicitly-manufactured opioid.

“We are encouraged by the decline and it shows a lot of hard work by many people in collaboration throughout Missouri. But it’s important to remember when looking at data that behind every number is a person and their unique story,” Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said in a release July 10. 

“One overdose death is too many. Those who have lost a loved one to an opioid overdose can attest to that. There is still much work to be done,” Williams added.