With opioid abuse continuing to be a concern nationwide, East Texans took the opportunity to learn more about preventing this specific addiction and overdose.
About 20 professionals, most of whom work directly with people dealing with addiction, attended a training event at The University of Texas at Tyler on Tuesday.
The UT Tyler Center for Students in Recovery hosted the event “Overdose Prevention and Free Naloxone Training.” The training focused on how to recognize when someone is having an opioid overdose, how to respond to them and how to evaluate them.
"There's a belief that it's not going to happen to us, but it is happening to us," said Mark Kinzly, co-founder of Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative. "Over half of the people in the U.S. have a family member or a close friend that suffers from addiction."
Rates of opioid use continue to be an issue nationwide, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Of the more than 33,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States in 2015, 1,186 were in Texas.
Longview and Texarkana were among the top 25 cities in the country with the most opioid abusers, according to information provided at the conference.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced in May that Texas was awarded $27.4 million in federal funds to combat opioid use disorders.
This grant allowed agencies like the Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative to educate the public about opioid addiction.
Recovering addicts who work with agencies like Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative are combating the stigma of addiction and forcing the conversation with lawmakers and elected officials about the severity of the problem in Texas.
Those who attended Tuesday’s event received three free doses of Naloxone, the drug used to reverse the affects of an opioid overdose, a fentanyl test strip, surgical gloves and a rescue breathing face shield.
"This is a medication people ... (who) are prescribed opioids or caught in the grips of addiction should have on hand," Kinzly said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Overdose Prevention and Free Naloxone Training
WHEN: 1:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Community Connections, 501 Pine Tree Road, Longview