Starting an important conversation can be tricky. But when discussing opioid use and abuse, especially with our kids, it’s vital. The Washington State Health Care Authority’s Starts with One campaign helps broach this sensitive topic with up-to-date information, videos, facts, conversation starters and helpful resources. This year, Harbor Strong Coalition is sharing information with the community by hosting the first annual Starts With One Fun Walk on Saturday, July 31.
In preparation for the event, look for large banners and yard signs throughout Aberdeen. “It’s not always easy starting the conversation about drugs and alcohol with your kids,” says Community Health Specialist Allegra Hood. “This should be a fun event that can help parents and caregivers start an honest conversation about the risks of opioid use. Kids are 50% less likely to use drugs when parents and caregivers tell them about the risks.”
One easy way to start the conversation is through the 2021 Fun Walk. No RSVP is required, simply show up at Pioneer Park, walk to Cosi Lions Park and then return to Pioneer Park. Walkers can join the fun from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and will receive a t-shirt and water bottle when they check in. Participate in their on-site survey for a free medication lock box as well.
“The trail will be lined with Starts with One signs that have facts and information in both English and Spanish about opioids, including recommendations of how to talk to youth, friends, and family,” says Hood. “We encourage all to stop and get the facts as they walk, take pictures with the signs, and then share those photos with a Harbor Strong Coalition tag on Facebook.”
Though this is the walk’s first year, civic leaders have high hopes. “The goal is to have a variety of participants: college students, teens, families, adults and seniors,” says Hood. “Pets are welcome as well! It’s important to educate yourself, friends and loved ones about prescription drug misuse, promote safe storage and safe disposal practices, and share information about how to respond in the case of an overdose. We are hoping for a good turnout, if so, this could turn into an annual event. The more aware we are about opioid misuse the better off we are as a community.”
Harbor Strong, in partnership with the Washington State Health Care Authority and the Starts with One campaign, are already hard at work in the community. They’ve provided the Aberdeen School District with Starts with One masks for staff and students, offered a socially distanced Drug Take Back event in April, handed out information on how to securely store and dispose of medication and purchased a Starts with One banner for the Little League ball park.
They also partnered with Miller Junior High and the Aberdeen Police Officers Guild for a Starts with One poster contest for 6th through 8th grade. All participants received a Starts with One t-shirt, swag bag and the first-place winners from each grade received a $100 Visa gift card donated by the Aberdeen Police Department Guild.
The Coalition wrestled with the idea of hosting a large event so close to the end of statewide COVID-19 restrictions. But, says Hood, “as a group we felt that the community was ready for a safe socially distant gathering. The walk is outside, and people can start anytime between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. We decided this would be the safest option rather than having a large group of people gather and start at the same time. People can come and go as they please. COVID-19 has been a long haul for our students and community. We are excited to ease into hosting safe in person events.”
If you can’t attend the walk but would like more information, visit GetTheFactsRx.com or follow the Harbor Strong Coalition online. Both sites have resources galore, ways to seek help and even overdose response information.
Hood and the organizers also acknowledge the power of teamwork. “Thank you to all our community partners!” she says. “We appreciate your willingness to hang up flyers, pass out brochures, hang banners, put up yard signs and to start having one honest conversation with us. One simple step can make a difference!” Want a yard sign for your neighborhood? Email Allegra Hood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opioid misuse and abuse are a growing threat. Starts with One leaders explain that “Opioids are now one of the leading causes of injury-related deaths in Washington State. More people die from overdose than from car crashes.” If we all do our part to keep the conversation going, lives will be saved and generations benefit.