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This graphic was provided by Carrie Spears.

NEW LEXINGTON – Never Alone Ohio hosted their first community walk on Aug. 29, and the event was successful. Founder and organizer Carrie Spears led the half-mile walk designed to bring the community together and offer help to those affected by addiction.

In collaboration with OhioCAN’s Licking County coordinator, Trish Perry distributed 115 nasal Narcans, 20 intramuscular Narcans and 100 fentanyl test strips to the public. Anyone can still obtain five free fentanyl test strips per person from The Soar Initiative in Columbus, Ohio, by signing up online. Spears believes that providing this kind of access and offering information and support is key to helping Perry County’s addiction problem.

“I do feel it helped bring a sensitive topic to the top and open the conversations,” Spears said. “I receive calls and emails from families that are struggling in silence and I’m perplexed as to why this is happening in Perry County. Also, in rural communities, there are concerns of gossip and distrust, so sometimes it is hard for families or individuals to open up about this. If you have walked this road on a personal level, I believe it is easier to understand other families’ struggles.”

Although a nonprofit aimed at fighting addiction was already in the works, the loss of Spears’ nephew to fentanyl poisoning in June is what really pushed her to build Never Alone Ohio. With the help of the community and countless donations, the walk illuminated a part of the community that is present and ready to support those suffering from or impacted by addiction.

“Men and women from our local inpatient facilities were able to attend,” Spears said. “It was touching to get to speak to them and let them know that a community is praying for them and to let them know they are thought of… The families and residents of Perry County shouldn’t be forgotten; they should be recognized and remembered. That is part of my goal.”

After the walk, a number of speakers took the stand to share their own stories and resources, including Seacrest Recovery’s Jake Bradshaw, OhioCAN Licking County’s Trish Perry and Never Alone West Virginia’s Patti Barnabei. Spears plans to do an annual community walk and fundraiser, develop a high school scholarship and establish future events such as monthly community meetings.

“As rural communities often struggle due in part to lack of healthcare, resources, financial resources, stigma and more, it touched my heart that we came together for a united cause,” Spears said. “There are so many things that Perry County can do to improve the quality of life for our communities and its members. Other counties are doing it; we just need to right the direction of the ship. Unfortunately, overdoses don’t occur Monday through Friday, eight to four, for example.”

Those interested in helping out with Never Alone Ohio or participating in a future event can contact them via email at neveraloneohio@gmail.com or phone at 740-243-7737.

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