Some East Surry High School students were among those who traveled to Raliegh recently to rally against opioid and heroin addiction.
Carrie Hazelwood, Oliva Gaskill, and Chelsea Smith, along with East Surry High teacher Martha Cook, participated in the rally. The gathering took place at Bicentennial Plaza, across from the Legislative Building, and was organized by the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse.
It was one of dozens that was scheduled to occur simultaneously in cities and towns across the United States coordinated by the organization FED UP!
“FED UP! is a coalition of organizations from across the country representing hundreds of thousands of families and individuals affected by the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths,” according to Sonia Dickerson, spokesperson for the county school system.
Many advocates at the rally were people who have lost loved ones to heroin and prescription opioids as well as addicts currently in recovery.
The East Surry students, who are members of the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), were among many there who set up and operated booths to distribute literature about addiction. Among those who visited the East Surry Booth were North Carolina Rep. Sarah Stevens; Graham Atkinson, former Surry County sheriff and current Governor’s Parole Board member; as well as SADD State Coordinator Harriett M. Southerland,
SADD members were able to be a part of the events of the day, which included the following guest speakers: Atkinson; Steve Mange from the NC Attorney General’s Office; Thomas Bashore, Nashville chief of police; and Charlie Hitlin, representing Recovery Communities of North Carolina.
A presentation of certificate of appreciation was made to Tom Mitchell and Chuck Lewis with the Emergency Medical Services, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services by Frankie Andrews, International Opioid Awareness Day (IOAD) committee lead organizer. Andrews also serves as area director for the national coalition against prescription drug abuse.
“Several ESHS SADD members did not get to attend this particular event due to prior commitments, but this is a major concern on the hearts of club members as they have people they know struggling with this issue,” said teacher Martha Cook.
The Pilot Mountain teacher said she has been affected by this as she has lost at least three former students to this crisis, attended funerals of students’ parents who died of overdoses, and has been informed of at least three other students who are in or recently were released from rehab for opioid and/or heroin addiction.
“I am sure there are more former and current students going through this than I have been made aware,” said Cook. “This epidemic has surpassed the AIDS epidemic and has grown exponentially in Surry County. Last year we lost 32 people total to overdose, and this year we are already at 47.”
“This is the best field trip I have ever been on,” Dickerson said one of the students remarked, despite being on the road or at the rally for 12 h ours.
Cook and all members agreed that if one life was saved by the event, it was worth all of the work they had done. SADD is working on organizing and hosting more events this year to raise awareness in our local schools and the community, according to Dickerson.