The figures associated with the opioid crisis continue to stagger. According to the National Safety Council, Erie County has experienced a 192-percent jump in the number of deaths due to opioid overdoses over the last six years. To highlight their sense of urgency, Council officials have brought a traveling memorial to Canalside this week.
"This memorial was really conceived to honor the victims of the opioid crisis and in particular people who were impacted by prescription pain killers," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.
"We know, today, that more people are dying from drug overdoses than things like car crashes."
"Prescribed to Death: A Memorial to the Victims of the Opioid Crisis" will be open to the public starting this morning at Canalside. Visitors can attend, free of charge, 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. at Canalside.
The memorial looks to inspire a call to action. Hersman wants people to talk to their doctors about their prescriptions "because what we've found is one in three people who are taking an opioid don't actually realize that it's an opioid drug and that they are highly addictive."
The exhibit's wall contains 22,000 white engraved pills, each meant to represent the deaths connected to prescription opioid overdoses in 2015. Visitors can add to the wall by bringing photos and keepsakes of loved ones lost to opioid abuse.
"The second thing we're asking people to do is clean out their medicine cabinets. The most fatally abused drug today is legal and is sitting in people's medicine cabinets," Hersman said.
"So, getting unused medications out of your home is really important because a lot of people are getting drugs, not from a valid prescription, but from family of friends."
The Council has partnered with Stericycle, a Chicgo-based waste disposal company. Visitors to the memorial will be provided pre-paid mail envelopes so unused medications can be shipped for disposal.