GHENT, WV (WVNS) — Over 300 free naloxone events will be held in 13 Appalachian states for the first ever “Appalachian Save A Life Day” on September 14, 2023.

The 13 states that are participating are West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The Appalachian Regional Commission recognizes all of these states as a part of the Appalachian region.

The medication naloxone works to reverse opioid overdoses with no adverse side effects, and one common brand is Narcan, an easy-to-use nasal spray.

The devastation of the overdose epidemic in the Appalachian region is well-known, and according to data from the CDC, five of the ten states that have the worst overdose rates are in the Appalachian region, where the loss of loved ones in 2021 represented 38% of the fatalities in the nation for that year.

This day of action is about showing how Appalachia is also a place people can look to for solutions. We are a region rich in mutual aid. We’re a place where everyone has lost somebody. And on Sept. 14th and every other day- we are turning that pain into care, courage, and power.

Iris Sidikman | Appalachian Save a Life Day Coordinator

Organizers started “Save A Life Day” with a two-county pilot in the Mountain State in 2020, before expanding in 2021 to include 17 counties in West Virginia, and in 2022 all 55 counties in West Virginia participated in “Save A Life Day.” In 2023, three years since “Save A Life Day” started in West Virginia, the state with the worst overdose rate, West Virginia-based SOAR now works with more than 150 counties spread across 13 states to work together and support each other.

“Partnering with People with Lived Experience” is the theme for September 14, 2023. Instead of sites only serving people that are in recovery or those who use drugs, they are working with them to help coordinate outreach teams in high-risk areas so that naloxone can get to people that need it the most. Recovery coaches can also be found at many of these events.

Colleges, fire departments, parks, churches, libraries, recovery homes, clinics, dollar stores, and gas stations are some of the pick-up locations for “Save A Life Day.”

The most successful free naloxone day event is often setting up a table in front of a well-trafficked corner, maybe with a bus stop nearby, with unassuming conversations and naloxone moving all day.

Joe Solomon | SOAR WV Co-Director

Sponsors for the major areas include the WV Drug Intervention Institute, Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Pallottine Foundation of Huntington, Community Connections, Inc, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and CAMC Foundation. Other local, state, and national sponsors, as well as a region wide map of events can be found here.

Local “Save A Life Day” locations are spread across Mercer, McDowell, Wyoming, Summers, Monroe, Raleigh, and Fayette counties, especially in areas that have convenience or grocery stores that can be seen from sidewalks or roads. Attendees will get one Narcan kit, in-person training, and information about local resources.

West Virginia may lead the nation in the highest opioid overdose rating, per capita; however, we also lead the nation in the overdose intervention, treatment, prevention, and recovery. If anything, Mountaineers are resilient!

Dr. Jamie Styons | Community Connections’ Assistant Director and West Virginia Association for Addition and Prevention Professionals board member

Event organizers plan to distribute more then 30,000 naloxone doses through the day across the Appalachian region. Local, trained volunteers will be at each location, with over 200 volunteers across the region for the 2023 event.

With the help of sponsors, the event organizers will be able to distribute more than 15,000 fentanyl test strips, 1,000 HIV tests, and around 30,000 anti-stigma pins and stickers.

Community members, friends and family, people that use drugs, and anyone wishing to be prepared to save a life are welcome to come to one of these event locations and be trained on September 14, 2023. The training is short, only taking a few minutes, and people can come to the events from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Partners in the area include Mercer County Coalition for Healthy Communities, Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center, the WV DHHR, Fayette County Prevention Coalition, the WV Collegiate Recovery Network, Community Connections, Inc., Recovery Point WV, Raleigh County Prevention Coalition, and the West Virginia Association for Addiction and Prevention Professionals.