A network of community health centers in North St. Louis County is fighting a different kind of pandemic, one against opiates.
In its ongoing effort, CareSTL Health will hold the second Project Opioid Awareness Day Walk/Run, at 9.m. Saturday, August 28, 2021, in Forest Park. The event will begin in the Upper Muny Parking Lot.
CEO Angela Clabon created the free event and, unfortunately, lost three family members who have overdosed on opiates during the pandemic.
“The opioid crisis hit my family,” Clabon said. “Here at the health center, one of the first incidents we had was my niece, [who] overdosed about four years ago.”
“During the time when I was mourning the loss, my brother posed the question to me about what the health center could do to bring awareness about the opioid crisis.”
That conversation led Clabon to take action.
“I wanted to do something about the opioid problem,” Clabon said.
“Three years prior to the walk, we continuously asked our patients what we could do better for them, to which they always replied they wanted more information.”
The event will also include vendors to provide information and resources to the community. Great Rivers Greenway, UnitedHealth Care, and the Father Support Center are included as participating vendors. There is no cost to be a vendor at the Walk/Run.
Additionally, Clabon advocates for different alternatives for patients to manage their pain without risk of addiction. Many patients were prescribed or were using opiates for pain management.
“I reached out to chiropractic services to become one of the first Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to provide that service to patients,” Clabon said.
“I also fought for physical therapy for patients in North St. Louis County.”
At CareSTL Health, a portion of the organization’s funding is also used for counseling services. There are 70-80 health consultants at the facility.
In 2020, they served about 150 people who used some form of opiate.
“I saw that many African Americans ignored messages about the opioid crisis because they did not realize they were taking prescribed opiates or other narcotics. This is how I got started,” Clabon said.
“The event was created to give information and help family members get resources for the people they know who are struggling with the disease.”
According to the Associated Press, the latest Drug Enforcement Administration narcotics threat assessment released in March stated that the availability of drugs such as fentanyl, heroin and cocaine remained high or plateaued last year.
CareSTL Health has a location in one of the city’s hottest spots for the use and distribution of the opioids.
“Even though there is a pandemic, the opioid crisis is taking lives,” Clabon said. “If we save just one life through this event, it’s worth it.”
There were more than 200 participants at the first event in 2019. You can walk or run a mile or take the three mile challenge. Prizes will go to the largest walk and run groups. U.S. Rep. Cori Bush and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones will serve as walk captains.