ike millions of people around the world, Prestonsburg, Kentucky native Eukie Ward experienced tragic loss during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic last June. The death of her loved one wasn’t due to the coronavirus but another disease that has been taking the lives of our family, friends and neighbors for far too long: drug overdose.
“She was brain dead from drugs, and I couldn’t help her,” said Eukie, who now serves as a lead peer support specialist for Addiction Recovery Care (ARC) and helps others who are struggling with substance use.
Eukie’s aunt, who was also her friend, battled addiction for many years, and despite trying to get her the proper help, in the end Eukie simply couldn’t save her.
“I have to remind myself daily that I can’t save people, but when I lost her, I really had to make myself believe that.”
Eukie Ward, Lead Peer Support Specialist, Addiction Recovery Care
Today, Eukie’s loss serves as a powerful reminder of the work that remains to reduce stigma around addiction treatment and ensure Kentuckians can access the comprehensive services they need for long-term recovery. And given the pandemic’s negative impacts on substance use across the commonwealth, this work has never been more important.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the pandemic resulted in a 29-percent increase in drug overdoses during the early months of the pandemic. Kentucky was one of the states hit hardest, ranking third in the nation for increases in drug overdose deaths during this time. An estimated 93,000 Americans died from overdoses in 2020, up from 72,000 the previous year. This translates to an average of more than 250 deaths each day, or roughly 11 every hour.
Kentucky experienced a nearly 50-percent increase in drug overdose deaths between 2019 and 2020. More than 1,964 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses last year.
As Kentucky’s largest addiction treatment provider, ARC continues to lead the way in reaching more Kentuckians and their loved ones who are struggling with addiction and in providing immediate care and services during this volatile time.
“For individuals seeking addiction treatment, hours can truly be the difference between life and death. There is a dire sense of urgency,” said Matt Brown, ARC’s senior vice president of administration. “The Addiction Recovery Care addiction treatment hotline is available around-the-clock—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—so that no matter the time of day or night, you and your loved ones have a resource to reach out and immediately get assistance. We are here for you and ready to help.”
ARC offers transportation to and from treatment, as well as virtual services to anyone across the state, and ensures individuals are evaluated by a medical provider the first day they start treatment. Clients are also able to connect with peer support specialists like Eukie, who use their lived experience to help others and to show them recovery is indeed possible.
“ARC is committed to providing treatment on demand amidst this heightened crisis,” said Pat Fogarty, ARC’s senior vice president of operations. “When individuals with a substance use disorder have a moment of clarity and make a decision to seek treatment, it is critical that they have immediate access to care. If access is not available right away, this decision can be fleeting, and calamity can ensue.”
While much of our country’s attention shifted toward COVID-19, isolation, fear of the unknown, unemployment and stress all contributed to the rise and continuation of substance use disorders, substance misuse and overdose.
“I have lost many to this disease,” Eukie said. “I couldn’t help my aunt, but there is one thing I can do, which is be an advocate for people who battle addiction. I get to help women on a daily basis recover. Addiction does not discriminate, but neither does recovery.”
In honor of Overdose Awareness Day (August 31) and the lives that have been lost to addiction, ARC is hosting a candlelight vigil at Louisa Mini Park (150 East Main Street, Louisa, Ky.) at 7:30 pm on August 31, 2021.
ARC has space available today and can provide you with the support and services you or a loved one need for long-term recovery. Call 1-888-520-8736 or visit arccenters.com today.
About Addiction Recovery Care (ARC)
Addiction Recovery Care (ARC) operates a network of more than 38 addiction treatment centers in 16 Eastern and Central Kentucky counties. The organization, headquartered in Louisa, Kentucky, offers a full continuum of care including withdrawal management, long-term residential treatment, intensive outpatient, outpatient, medically assisted treatment (MAT), vocational rehabilitation and job training. The treatment centers are holistic with CARF-accredited clinical programs, medical services directed by an addiction psychiatrist, a spiritual emphasis that includes the 12 steps and chaplaincy care and a broadening scope of vocational training opportunities for clients.
ARC has a focus on providing Treatment on Demand to ensure individuals receive treatment immediately without delay. This process includes quick enrollment into programs and transportation provided by ARC to one of our facilities. Individuals will have a clinical and medical assessment within 24 hours of arrival.