NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (Aug. 31, 2022) – Empower Tusc’s latest overdose awareness initiative is officially underway.
Project Hope kicked off Wednesday afternoon with a press conference at the New Philadelphia Fire Station. The gathering coincided with National Overdose Awareness Day, which leads into National Recovery Month here in September. The Tuscarawas County Commissioners issued proclamations calling on residents to observe both occasions that Board President Chris Abbuhl read during the gathering.
“The Tuscarawas County Commissioners encourage communities to support local prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts to include Project Hope, Project Dawn, Empower Tusc and the Tuscarawas County Addiction Task Force’s efforts to reduce stigma, prevent substance use and make treatment and recovery services available to all.”
This is the third installment of the Project Hope initiative that puts trios of wooden silhouettes in communities throughout Tuscarawas County as a visual representation of the drug crisis we’ve been facing. ADAMHS Board Executive Director Natalie Bollon says each display contains a black silhouette representing the 9 county residents who lost their lives to drug overdoses in the first half of this year, a gray one listing the number of individuals in each community who overdosed and survived, and a yellow family-shaped figure representing recovery.
“Between the growth in services in Tuscarawas County over the past seven years to the shift in how our community views addiction, we hope that every resident of Tuscarawas County who loves someone struggling with an addiction or is struggling his or herself knows that for each of you there will always be help and there will always be hope.”
Speakers at Tuesday’s Project Hope kickoff included retiring State Senator Jay Hottinger and County Commissioner Al Landis, who’s running unopposed to replace him in November.
“I’ll be leaving office at the end of this year and I want you to know that I carry those voices with me… We will continue the battle because addiction is not going away and neither are we.”
Attendees also heard from Marlee Beatty, who lost her daughter Sarah Jo Moore to a drug overdose in 2016.
“She took what was called a hot shot, and I guess it’s laced with fentanyl, and this was after being clean. I don’t know if she had done anything more than that prior to that one time that ended her life in our basement, doing laundry, we thought.”
Beatty brought photos of her daughter, her ashes, and a message that she had written.
“For me, recovery means life. Recovery is the most important thing to me right now. Everything and everyone has been affected by my addiction. My mom, my children, my jobs, my mind, and my body have all suffered due to the choices I have made in my life. During my use, I thought I was the only one I was hurting, I never thought of the pain I was causing my family and my children.”
She described loving someone with addiction back then as wading through water while the tide is high with no life jacket.
“Our fight started in 2007, 2008 and so there was no help and any help that was there, it didn’t resonate with enough people to make a difference, and as much as my daughter tried, there was always that one thing that drew her back.”
The event concluded with a call to action from Empower Tusc Coordinator Jodi Salvo.
“We can embrace people that are struggling. We can be a listening ear. We can point people to services. We can be a mouthpiece that says, ‘Prevention works. Treatment is effective, and recovery happens.’”
Project Hope silhouettes will remain on display in town squares throughout the county through the end of September. Each set is accompanied by a yard sign promoting the Tuscarawas County Substance Use Hope Line that people can call to connect with treatment.