PICKENS COUNTY — Steppin’ It Up Coalition hosted their first Awareness 5K Run/Walk on Saturday hoping to draw attention to the growing problems associated with opioid abuse in the Upstate.
“Did you know that per capita Pickens County is the second in the state of South Carolina — only behind Horry County — in opioid fatalities?” asked County Councilman Chris Bowers during the opening ceremony. “Last year there were 366 murders in the state of South Carolina, but 616 opioid related fatalities. It’s time that we acknowledge the issue.”
He’s not wrong.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opioid deaths are increasing at an alarming rate.
“The majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) quadrupled,” states the agency. “From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses.”
Ninety one Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, the CDC states.
Steppin’ It Up Coalition is a recipient of the Drug Free Communities Support Grant, in which funding was received from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to help raise awareness about substance use and abuse among Pickens county’s youth.
The mission of the Steppin’ It Up Coalition is “to strengthen a generation of youth in Pickens County who are armed with knowledge, motivation and support to combat the temptations of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.”
“Steppin’ It Up Coalition wishes to acknowledge community member Dawn Gilstrap for her instrumental role in bringing this event to the community,” said Cathy Breazeale, project director in a release. “Other similar events were held in North Carolina, bringing our two states together to raise awareness to the communities.”
Special thanks were also expressed by the organization to sponsor Chris and Kelly’s HOPE Foundation, an organization out of Greenville that helps to provide financial support to programs that treat teens and young adults who struggle with substance abuse and addiction.
Those running or walking in the Awareness 5K had the opportunity to do so in memory or honor of someone who had battled a substance use disorder.
There were a total of 40 participants in this first event with hopes of more in future events, said Breazeale.
For more information about Steppin’ It Up Coalition or how to get involved, visit www.steppinituppickens.org or contact Cathy Breazeale, Project Director at (864)898-5800.
For information on Chris and Kelly’s HOPE Foundation visit www.chriskellyhope.org.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.