Delaware Goes Purple

Delaware Goes Purple

By Shannon McNaught, Smyrna-Clayton Sun Times

A Sussex County group is turning Delaware purple to raise awareness of substance abuse disorder, eliminate the stigma surrounding it and cut the number of people suffering from it.

The Sussex County Health Coalition was founded fourteen years ago and has evolved to focus primarily on the opioid crisis. According to the Division of Public Health, 288 Delawareans died of a drug overdose involving opioids in 2017, the most recent confirmed data available.

“Nobody comes out of the gate and says, ‘I think I’ll be a heroin addict today,’” said Executive Director Peggy Geisler. “It’s an epidemic, and we have to figure out multiple ways to address it.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has documented rising opioid overdoses since in the 1990s, coinciding with an increase in opioid painkiller prescriptions. Around 2010, heroin overdoses began to increase, and around 2013, overdoses involving fentanyl began to rise. The opioid-related toll in 2017 was the highest in state history.

“There’s a lot of top-down approaches with state government funding, and they’re very important. But when the community needs to heal or is scared, what they do is rely on each other, and there’s something to be said about that. Both of those approaches need to be happening if we’re going to stem the tide,” Geisler said.

Geisler’s home of Talbot County, Maryland, inspired the campaign.

“Everything was purple. The lights were purple, the papers were purple. I was like, ‘What is the deal?’” she said. “It’s about opioid awareness and it really centers around Chris Herren.”

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