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Extension Education Highlight: A Light To Remember

Sraiah Israelsen: Thanks for tuning in again to this Extension Educational Highlight. I'm Sariah Israelsen and I have with me Maren Wright Voss, USU Extension health and wellness Professor, thank you so much for joining me today.

Maren Voss: Thank you. Good to be with you.

Sraiah Israelsen: I'm excited about this topic. So annually every year, there's a event held in honor of those who have been lost to overdose.

And this event is what I would like to talk about. So before we get into that, Maren, I actually would love it if you talked a little bit about the statistics, so we kind of understand where we as a state are standing with the overdose situation.

Maren Voss: Yeah, so about 2014, Utah's overdose death rate was one of the worst in the nation. We were hovering over 297 deaths per 100,000 individuals.

Luckily, since that time, our numbers have been falling, there's been a lot of work going into opioid overdose awareness and into distributing Naloxone kits, which is a life saving overdose reversal medication.

So a lot of groups have been really putting this effort out there. And these overdose awareness events that we're talking about today, are a part of that effort.

In the most recent numbers in 2021 that we have for the state, we were down to 178 deaths per 100,000 individuals in Utah. So really nice change because of all this work on increasing awareness.

Sraiah Israelsen: That's amazing. Can you explain a little bit about what people can expect when they go to this event?

Maren Voss: It's called "A Light To Remember" and it's a celebration of hope after loss, because we have lost a lot of really valuable lives in the state to overdose death epidemic.

So when people come, we want to take a moment to celebrate the lives to remember the ones we've lost. We have luminaries where people can come and they can write a name on a note, and remember someone that was close to them that they may have lost to overdose.

And then we light those luminaries and have a moment of silence as dusk approaches at the events across the state. But it's also about the hope that you can find as a community comes together around loss, but also prevents this from happening to other families and to other community members.

To know that there are life saving medications and the Naloxone that I've mentioned, we have Naloxone trainings at this event. So people can come, they can find out what Naloxone is and how easy it is to administer how safe it is to administer.

So they can come and learn a little bit. They can take home a Naloxone kit with them. We can tell neighbors and friends about it. So there's a lot of opportunities to increase awareness.

Sraiah Israelsen: That sounds amazing. How long has this event being held like annually.

Maren Voss: It started with Michelle Church who had lost her brother to overdose and started in one community in Kaysville, Utah. The next year, we brought it to Toole County, Utah.

Then in the third year, we started to spread it statewide and we've had events in price and in Roosevelt and in Salt Lake City. And this year it's to go even further out.

We have Moab and St. George involved as well as Cash County and Ogden are also getting involved.

So we're doing more statewide this year and we're excited about the opportunity to increase awareness as more people jump on board.

Sraiah Israelsen: So this is the fourth year it's been happening?

Maren Voss: Yeah.

Sraiah Israelsen: Well thank you so much for talking with me about this. That was Maren Wright Voss, Extension health and wellness professor. I am so glad we got to talk about this and let people know that this is going on.

Maren Voss: Thank you Sariah, it's been a pleasure to be with you today.

Luminary celebrations are held Wednesday, August 31, at the following locations and times:

* Cache/Box Elder counties - Cache County Fairgrounds, Logan, 6 to 9 p.m.

* Carbon/Emery counties - Huntington State Park, Huntington, 7 to 9 p.m.

* Salt Lake County - Utah State Capitol South Steps, 7 to 9 p.m.

* Duchesne County - Central Park Pavilion, Roosevelt, 7 to 9 p.m.

* Grand County - Rotary Park, Moab, 6 to 8 p.m.

* Weber County - Ogden Botanical Gardens, 7 to 9 p.m.

* Sevier County - Richfield City Park, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

* South Salt Lake County - Wheeler Historic Farm, Murray, 6:30 to 9 p.m.

* Washington County - Utah Tech University, St. George, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

* Tooele County - Stansbury Park Clubhouse, 7:30 to 9 p.m.

For those who would like to be part of the movement but are not able to participate in person, a complimentary “Remember at Home kit” is available. Visit Remember at Home to order.

A statewide moment of silence will be held at 9 p.m. on August 31 and will be fed live to Facebook pages from most locations