Surry County organization hopes to help tackle growing drug addiction problem

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Wendy Odum is the director of Birches Initiative at Mount Airy who works with people with addiction issues to try to get back on track. t enjoy the life of active addiction. “Odum says she lost her mother here to substance abuse and is a recovering addict herself. She created Birches after losing her daughter Jessica to an overdose in 2018 . “After his death, I needed a place to put all the heartache and love and anger and all the emotions that you feel when you lose a child,” Odum said. “With an overdose he overdosed. There are so many different emotions and I found that using my love for her and that heartbreak to help others is really what started the Birches Foundation. “Wendy’s family tragedy is increasingly common in Surry County. According to the NCDHHS, from 2015 to 2019, Surry County recorded an average of 24.1 overdose deaths per 100,000 population. State during the same period was 18.5. S urry County EMS answered 50 drug addiction calls in the month of October alone and in the first three days of November EMS has already answered five calls. different. start of the pandemic. In 2019, EMS received a total of 359 drug addiction calls. This number skyrocketed to 503 in 2020. So far in 2021, EMS has already received 446 calls. Odom says that fear of criminal consequences means that these numbers could still be underestimated. but it is not a guarantee that this will happen, “said Odum. impossible to simply pull someone out of a space where they are actively addicted to a substance and immediately take them to where society thinks they should be. There must be a bridge, ”said Odum. “We have to face the reality. We cannot wish this problem would go away. We cannot stop it. We have to face the reality of where we are.” Read more on the measures Surry County’s efforts to tackle drug addiction click here. To learn more about the Birches Initiative or to volunteer, click here.

Wendy Odum is the director of the Birches Initiative at Mount Airy which works with people struggling with drug addiction to try to get back on track.

“Once I started labor, I found out that they were people. They are someone’s children and they don’t enjoy the life of active addiction.”

Odum says she lost her mother here to substance abuse and is a recovering drug addict herself. She created Birches after losing her daughter Jessica to an overdose in 2018.

“After her death, I needed a place to put all the heartache and love and anger and all the emotions that you feel when you lose a child,” Odum said. “With the overdose there are so many different emotions and I found that using my love for her and that heartbreak to help others is really what started the Birches Foundation.”

Wendy’s family tragedy is increasingly common in Surry County.

According to the NCDHHS, from 2015 to 2019, Surry County recorded an average of 24.1 overdose deaths per 100,000 population. The state average over the same period was 18.5.

Surry County EMS responded to 50 drug addiction calls in the month of October alone, and in the first three days of November, EMS has already responded to five different calls.

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of drug addiction incidents has increased dramatically. In 2019, SMU received a total of 359 drug addiction calls. That number has skyrocketed to 503 in 2020. So far in 2021, EMS has already received 446 calls.

Odom says fear of criminal consequences means those numbers could still be underestimated.

“We encourage people to always activate the 911 system whenever an overdose occurs, but it is not a guarantee that it will happen,” Odum said.

She says it will take time to undo the chaos drug addiction has caused in some communities and that it cannot happen with the snap of a finger.

“You can’t just pull someone out of a space where they’re actively addicted to a substance and immediately take them to where society thinks they should be. There has to be a bridge.” , said Odum. “We have to face the reality. We cannot wish this problem would go away. We cannot stop it. We have to face the reality of where we are.”

To learn more about the measures taken by Surry County to fight drug addiction, click here.

To learn more or volunteer with the Birches Initiative, click here.


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