Last year, overdose deaths in Utah rose for the second year. According to the nonprofit Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness, this year is likely to be no different. 

Lanette Denton and Heidi Fuger, recovery coaches with USARA, are hosting an event in Moab to recognize Overdose Awareness Day. The event will take place on Wednesday, August 31 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Rotary Park and includes dinner and a number of talks to remember those who lost their lives to overdose. 

USARA partnered with the Moab Regional Hospital and Four Corners Behavioral Clinic to host the event. It will be a place for community members to “honor lives lost to overdose, celebrate those in recovery, and support those that need our help,” according to USARA.

One of the overarching goals of the event is to reduce the stigma and shame surrounding recovery and overdose, Denton said. 

The event will begin with a talk on positive language. USARA utilizes “person-first” language, which means that rather than labeling someone who is struggling with addiction as an “addict,” USARA encourages language that speaks about the individual first: “someone who is struggling with addiction.” 

“Terms like “addict” limit that person to only being described as one characteristic,” Fuger said. “It dehumanizes people.” 

During the event, an overdose survivor and community member who lost her daughter to an overdose will also share their stories; then, event-goers will help create a “memorial garden” by creating signs for those who died of an overdose. There will also be a moment of silence. 

Staff from the Moab Regional Hospital will demonstrate how to administer Narcan, a brand-name of naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. They will also demonstrate how to use fentanyl test kits. Fentanyl, an opioid pain medication, is cheaper to produce than drugs like heroin or oxycodone: illegal drug producers use it to lace or cut other drugs. But fentanyl is dangerously easy to overdose on, especially for someone who doesn’t have a tolerance for opioids—a dose as small as 2 mg is enough to be fatal. 

Denton said USARA has seen a rise in the desire for Narcan education, which she hopes means overdose is becoming less stigmatized. She and Fuger also reached out to offer services to residents of San Juan County this year, something they haven’t done before. 

“We’re seeing a lot more people who want harm reduction services and are trying to stay safer by having Narcan available to them,” she said.

USARA works with clients on an individual basis, in addition to offering a number of group recovery programs such as coffee and recovery, yoga for recovery, fitness recovery, medically assisted recovery, and sober social events. Fuger said when someone comes in looking for help, she’ll start by assessing their “satisfaction level” in 10 life domains including transportation, housing, and relationships. For any domains that the client ranks with low satisfaction, Fuger will help the client make goals and connect them to resources that could help them. 

The nonprofit is hosting another recovery event in September, which is Recovery Awareness Month. While the event in August is to remember loved ones and create a safe space for people to reach out, the event in September will celebrate and empower people in recovery, Denton said. 

There will be local organization booths to exhibit Moab’s recovery resources and fun booths offering activities like face-painting. The event will be from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, September 23 at Old City Park.