BERLIN – Worcester County will kick off National Recovery Month by “going purple.”
In September, organizers of Worcester Goes Purple will launch a month-long campaign to promote conversations on substance abuse.
Worcester Goes Purple is an initiative supported by Worcester County Public Schools, Worcester County Health Department and Atlantic General Hospital.
And while the kick-off is months away, Event Coordinator Debbie Smullen said partnering agencies are encouraging residents, business and community members to support the movement.
“We are reaching out to local businesses and organizations, asking them to change their light bulbs to purple, put out purple ribbons, host purple casual days or display Worcester Goes Purple banners,” she said. “It’s really an initiative for the entire county to partake in.”
Tamara Mills, coordinator of instruction for Worcester County Public Schools, said the partnering agencies decided to implement a Go Purple initiative after the school system received funds from the Heroin and Opioid Policy Development Grant.
“Talbot County really took the lead on this initiative several years ago and we saw the great things they were doing, so it’s always been on our radar,” she said. “But when we received the grant, it provided funding for naloxone training for school staff, naloxone kits and enough money to hire an event coordinator for a large-scale community event. We thought it was the perfect time to implement a Go Purple initiative in Worcester.”
To promote Worcester Goes Purple, organizers will host several community events throughout the months of August and September, including a school casual day and a rock painting project to benefit the Atlantic Club.
“We actually received a grant from the Worcester County Arts Council to do a project with the Atlantic Club in West Ocean City,” Smullen said. “We are going to have people paint rocks with inspirational messages and they will be put in a meditation garden that will be built in front of the Atlantic Club.”
Worcester Goes Purple will also join the “We Are Worcester” night at the Delmarva Shorebirds on Aug. 22.
“The reason we are starting now is to get the word out, so people can prepare and start having conversations about substance abuse,” Smullen said.
“I always get the question, ‘What are you actually trying to accomplish?’” she said. “There is still a lot of stigma involved with addiction and recovery, and we are hoping to empower the community to talk about these issues.”
In Wicomico County, event organizers are also gearing up for their first Wicomico Goes Purple campaign.
“We are doing this because addiction has taken the lives of our community members,” said Stephanie Willey, chair of Wicomico Goes Purple. “In 2018, 36 Wicomico County residents lost their lives to an overdose.”
Wicomico Goes Purple is an initiative from the Wicomico County Opioid Intervention Team and the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore.
The campaign focuses on prevention, treatment and recovery resources available in the community and emphasizes the important role enforcement agencies play in combating the opioid epidemic.
To begin the conversation on the dangers of substance abuse, Willey said Wicomico Goes Purple has established Go Purple clubs in each of the county’s middle and high schools. Event organizers will also host a Wicomico Goes Purple Kick-Off at the Delmarva Shorebirds on Aug. 31 and a Wicomico Goes Purple Boat Parade at Brew River on Sept. 10.