MOUNT VERNON — This year’s Skagit County Overdose Awareness Event featured marches and protests, booths and speakers.

The event, held Wednesday at Cleveland Park, was an effort to raise awareness of the growing crisis of drug abuse and overdose risk.

“To me it looked like (attendance) doubled from last year,” Lori Carpenter, an organizer of the event, said in a phone interview. “I would say at least 200 (people attended).”

The event featured training to administer naloxone, an opioid blocker that can save someone from dying of an overdose.

Carpenter said the growing number of attendees speaks to the ever-growing number of those impacted by overdose deaths.

According to the state Department of Health website, in 2017 there were 1,163 overdose deaths statewide for any drugs and over 700 of those were linked to opioids. The preliminary numbers for 2018 appear similar.

“I think as the awareness goes up the numbers go down. We know it’s gradual but we are seeing an improvement,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter’s involvement in the cause stems from being impacted herself — her teenage son died of an accidental overdose last year.

“I needed to channel my energy into something positive and so I reached out and I was welcomed, and this year I became one of the organizers,” Carpenter said.

The Skagit County Overdose Awareness Event will remain an annual event, Carpenter said, but there are many other organizations collaborating in the area to help spread awareness and education opportunities, especially for elementary school children and teenagers.

“Mainly we’re targeting elementary school and teens as far as education before the temptation of anything begins,” Carpenter said. “We are all linked in a way but I think everybody is really good at networking together.”

— Assistant Assignment Editor Iain Woessner: 360-416-2193, iwoessner@skagitpublishing.com

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