Eastern Shore communities have launched their respective “Going Purple” campaigns. The purpose of the “Going Purple” campaign is to promote public awareness of the opioid crisis and the roles we can play in preventing addiction disasters. Signs were very evident Sunday evening as businesses, public buildings and residences were lit up with purple lights. The Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy mastheads have gone purple as well.
The Kent Goes Purple campaign kicked off its 2019 program a week early on August 24 when runners, walkers and campaign supporters came out in the rain to attend the “Kent Goes Purple Fun Run.” The campaign’s program continues on September 14 at 1 p.m. when public is invited to the Kent Goes Purple Community Jamboree at Worton Park. There will be food and other refreshments, entertainment for kids, and a special speaker. The campaign wraps up its program with a presentation on September 23 at Kent County High School by Tony Hoffman, a nationally-recognized speaker on youth substance abuse prevention.
The 2019 Going Purple campaign comes at an opportune time to engage the community. Just in the past few weeks, an Oklahoma judge sent a strong message to manufacturers and others in the prescription opioid distribution pipeline when he found Johnson & Johnson liable for practices that fueled the addiction crisis in Oklahoma and awarded $572 million in damages. Just last week, Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler Family, came to a settlement with a consortium of states that will result in a loss of control of the company and disgorging of billions from the descendants of the creators of pharmaceutical-grade heroin for pain management and the industry we call Big Pharma.
For a brief history of the evolution of opioid uses and the intersection with the rise of the modern pharmaceutical industry in the United States, including the role of the Sacklers, we encourage readers to read Backstories on the US Opioid Epidemic. Good Intentions Gone Bad, an Industry Gone Rogue, and Watch Dogs Gone to Sleep published in the American Journal of Medicine in June 2018.
There are good reasons why Kent should be particularly aware of opioid abuse. In August, Spy columnist Dan Watson discussed Kent County’s place as leading the State of Maryland from 2007-2012 in per capita distribution of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, both containing opiates, based on Drug Enforcement Agency data published by the Washington Post. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2017, 1,985 persons died from opioid-related overdoses in Maryland, twice the national average. The largest increase was attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.
This month, the Spy writers are working on articles and interviews with public health, medical professionals, law enforcement, and individuals to provide insight on local progress in prevention, treatment, and recovery.
We encourage all of our readers to “Go Purple.’ It is as simple as changing our porch lights or lamp posts to purple bulbs. Better yet, attend the Community Jamboree or order tickets to the Tony Hoffman event. Finally, make time to be aware of the impact of the opioid crisis around you and consider how you can promote awareness and change.