We all have a favorite color. Naturalists may favor green, CBS Morning Anchor, Gayle King loves yellow and red seems to be the color of choice for the adventurous-minded. Personally, I joke and claim blue is my favorite as it’s the color of my eyes. Regardless of your color choice, you are going to be seeing a lot of the color purple around town in a few months.
The color purple denotes Wicomico County’s effort to bring attention to the opioid problem in the community, as well as throughout the state of Maryland. Wicomico Goes Purple is an awareness campaign focusing on prevention, treatment and recovery resources available in the community. The campaign also emphasizes the important role that enforcement agencies play in combating this epidemic.
The campaign is an initiative of the Wicomico County Opioid Intervention Team and The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore. The hope is that this awareness campaign will engage the community -especially its youth – to stand up against substance misuse and abuse.
The initiative kicks off officially on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Arthur W. Perdue Stadium. Tables will be set-up at the stadium containing information about the campaign as well as information on the training and use of Narcan. Fireworks will follow the Delmarva Shorebirds game.
In Wicomico County, 35 people died from an overdose in 2017. In Maryland, 2,282 people died from an overdose the same year. Overdoses have become the leading cause of accidental death in people under the age of 50. Another indication of the severity of the problem – in 2016, 20.1 percent of ninth graders in Wicomico County were offered, sold or given illegal drugs on school property.
Stephanie Willey, local sales manager for Comcast Spotlight, is very involved with the Wicomico Goes Purple initiative.
“On June 21, we held a press conference at the Third Friday get-together. We explained the initiative and outlined some of the events we have planned. Naturally, we touched upon the Shorebirds game at the Perdue Stadium and our presence at the Folk Festival the second week of August. We also mentioned a boat parade scheduled at the Brew River Restaurant on Sept. 10. Boats from all along the Wicomico River will be dressed out in purple and a judging will take place to honor the best looking boat. Also planned is the annual golf tournament sponsored by The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce. The event will be held Sept. 27 at Green Hill Country & Yacht Club. Participants are encouraged to dress in purple golf attire,” Willey said.
The initiative is already gaining support from the community. The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore has contributed $2,000 to the effort, and the folks at Avery Hall have matched that contribution. Others are also showing support. Area middle and high school students have formed Go Purple clubs and the Wicomico Board of Education is supporting purple rocks in middle schools.
Bill Chambers, president/CEO of The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, is a strong supporter of the Wicomico Goes Purple initiative.
“We are all very much aware of the unthinkable affects of the nation’s opioid crisis,” Chambers said, “and will not, in any way diminish the pain and suffering that results from addiction, but there is a very real economic impact to the business community as well. A business’s strongest component is its employees. Without them there is no business.”
“Opioid addiction often results in poorer performance by the inflicted employee resulting in less productivity, problems at home, lost time from the job, increased health care costs and often an increase in workman’s compensation expenses. Through our efforts in the Wicomico Goes Purple, we hope to help businesses recognize the impact that addiction may have on their business,” he added.
Much of what we see on television deals with poor, rural communities that are suffering through difficult economic times, resulting in an increase of opioid use. Huntington, West Virginia is a perfect example of a community under severe economic distress.
“Unlike the troubled rural communities where opioid use is rampant,” Chambers explained, “Salisbury is not rural America. Everyday 120,000 people come into Salisbury to work, shop or partake in other activities. However, we are still in the midst of a silent crisis. Unfortunately, we attach an extremely negative stigma to those who are addicted rather than offering them a helping hand. All too often those who are addicted have suffered a painful injury that necessitates the taking of prescription opioids. Often chronic pain leads to an overuse of the drugs and in time addiction develops. These are often fine, intelligent people who got caught up with opioids and eventually turned to other drugs. Our job is to help; not condemn them.”
The old adage, “no man is an island,” is particularly true in relation to the ongoing opioid crisis. Every death leaves behind a hole in the lives of loved ones that can never be filled. In fact, the entire community suffers. Friends, teachers, family doctors, school bus drivers, clergy, and many others, are all affected. Additionally, society loses an individual who might have made great contributions. Everyone who dies from an overdose of opioids may have had the ability to become an important member of the community. The loss is felt for decades to come.
Soon you will see folks wearing purple wristbands in support of Wicomico Goes Purple and I’ll bet you will also witness a few heads sprouting purple hair. This is an initiative we can all get behind and support. You don’t have to be a Baltimore Ravens fan to “Go Purple.”