Save A Life Day came to Cabell County on Sept. 8 for the first time. With the help of St. Peters’ Community Outreach center and The Huntington Addiction Wellness Center (HAWC), Carrie Ware was able to bring the free naloxone event into motion.
Carrie Ware has been a member at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church for four years and has recently started working as the Chief Financial officer at HAWC. Save a Life Day stems from the overdose crisis faced by people across the globe. This specific event was spread across 17 counties in West Virginia on September 8th.
“We kind of followed suit from Kenowha County, they did their first one last year and then they asked me to join in this year, “ said Ware. “We looked at basically the overdose hotspots in Cabell County, the first being downtown and the second one is the west end, so we picked sites based on the hot spots for overdoses and went from there.”
Free Naloxone, hygiene kits, condoms and other items were distributed across nine locations in Cabell County, including the Family Resource Center, and Huntington Health Department. Volunteers who had undergone naloxone training, and items that anyone may come and pick up if they need.
Jerome Comer is a Peer Recovery Support Specialist at HAWC and has been working with them since their opening on April 19th, 2019.
“I started volunteering down here a little bit and just getting to know him (Craig Hettlinger, the creator of HAWC) a little better and I was really really enthused so I told him that as soon as an opportunity came about I would love to have a job here, and he said he would look into it,” said Comer.
HAWC works with Specialists like Comer to help new members adjust to their program.
“When a client first comes in, they kind of do not understand what is going on, or even if they have been in recovery before they didn’t have a lot of support, so I mainly get them settled in,” said Comer. “I make sure they understand the rules, and I try as time goes on to help them see their behaviors and become more aware of the things they were doing, and prevent them from doing them again.”
To host this event, Ware used a GoFundMe and received sponsorships from many local businesses. In total they raised about $25,000, mostly through the help of a podcast called “Sawbones”, hosted by Dr. Sydnee Mcelroy and her husband Justin Mcelroy. Through that share, they received most of the money from individual donations.
Members of the Huntington community came together to help with this event. Volunteers have gathered to work as site coordinators and to learn how to use naloxone through the training days. Ware works to do training sessions regularly as well as do larger sessions to train businesses, churches, and local groups that are interested in learning.
“It’s all about understanding that we are not all bad people, and we can change,” said Comer. “I have to get to know people before I can put my judgement and opinion on them. Once you get to know people after they have been in recovery a while you can see the difference. You wouldn’t really know I was who I was, I’ve done a whole 180 from when I walked in the door from what my mind, my behaviors and my thinking was, to now.”
This event is one of many that the partnership does to help those struggling with addiction. They post a weekly Facebook schedule that includes events such as workdays in the community garden, free care bag/naloxone distribution and cleanups behind the flood wall.
Ware said the community garden they have hosted is an immense help to the city.
“The idea is not just a normal community garden,” Ware said. “It was to partner with a recovery center so that they could come in and that be part of their recovery. They are working in the garden, learning culinary skills with the produce that they grow. We also wanted to take part of the produce that we have and give back to the community. Nobody working is keeping it for themselves, all the produce is going back to the community, or into the recovery program.”