RESTON, Va. — With so much job loss, isolation and grief caused by the pandemic, It’s no surprise experts have feared how all of this would impact the drug epidemic in America.
WUSA9 reached out to The Chris Atwood Foundation in Reston, Virginia to hear about their mission and message for those in our community who are struggling.
Ginny Atwood Lovitt's little brother, Chris, was known for his sense of humor and ability to make everyone laugh. However, he started developing depression and anxiety at a young age.
Just as Ginny was headed off to college for the first time at 18, she discovered that her brother had become addicted to Heroin at just 15. The realization sent her family reeling.
“Then in 2013, actually, I was at work. And I sat down at my desk to answer some emails, and I got struck by this instant feeling of dread,” she remembered.
“When I got home, he was laying on his bed unresponsive, and I didn't have a Naloxone. So I did what I knew to do to try and help him, but it wasn't able to revive him and I called 911. By the time they got there, they were able to get his heart started again, but he never regained consciousness. And so he passed away at the age of 21.”
Today, Lovitt is the Executive Director of The Chris Atwood Foundation, a nonprofit in Northern Virginia dedicated to saving lives from opioid overdose and supporting recovery from addiction. They've recently partnered with nonprofit NEXT Harm Reduction to mail packages of naloxone, also known as Narcan, to anyone who is exposed to substances.
Naxalone is a medication that can halt the effects of an overdose. Something that could have made all the difference for Chris.
“I only really realized later how tragic it was that there was an easy to administer medication that could have saved him if I had been given it, but the system failed us,” Lovitt explained.
“Our big mission is to make sure that everybody has access to naloxone. This medication is safer than Tylenol. Everybody should have it in their medicine cabinets. Opioid overdose is the number one cause of death in Americans under age 50. This is a real issue that people need to be prepared to deal with.”
So far, The Chris Atwood Foundation has delivered more than 4,000 doses of Naloxone in the past two years by mail and they have recorded more than 600 people who have used their Naloxone to save a life.
“It has grown a lot this year, because of COVID,” Lovitt said. “This has increased our challenges quite a bit. But it's also meant that our mail order program has been more important than ever,”
It’s also critical to remember that the effects of naloxone can wear off, so always seek medical help after treating someone.
Lovitt had one message to people out there who may be in the middle of a struggle with substances:
"As somebody who has witnessed an overdose and not been able to do anything about it, I want to implore anybody, if you know somebody who is using substances, whether they're addicted or not, whether it's opioids or not, just make sure you have Naloxone."
If you or a loved one needs help, call 703-662-8689 to get connected to a peer support specialist who is in recovery from addiction and ready to help people navigate resources and improve their health.
The Chris Atwood Foundation is also accepting donations toward their life-saving program. Find information on how you can donate by clicking here.