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'None of us are immune'

Amber Carlson, director of behavioral health services for Mason Health, grew up in a family of alcoholics and drug addicts.

Her mother and brother died of overdoses. Her father was also an addict. "It's hard to have hope," she said.

Yet there was Carlson's father, marching alongside his daughter Friday evening at the seventh annual Overdose Awareness March from Kneeland Park through downtown Shelton. He got clean 20 years ago and now counsels others, Carlson told a crowd of more than 100 at the park.

"I never expected that man to get clean," Carlson said. She added, "He's still clean. He's still taking it one day at a time."

Such an inspiring story of recovery was dampened by the announcement of 41 overdose deaths - mostly from fentanyl - in Mason County since August of last year.

Jamie Ellertsen organized the event and has participated in all seven Shelton marches. She shed tears as she addressed the crowd.

"I think the event is different this year because a lot of people are missing," Ellertsen said. She added, "This event is a reminder every year that you're not alone."

For two hours before the march, attendees strolled three rows of resource fair booths hosted by support groups, nonprofits and other agencies, including Northwest Resources, Olympic Health & Recovery Services, Narcotics Anonymous, National Alliance on Mental Illness Thurston/Mason, Mason Transit Authority. Crossroads Housing, Timberland Regional Library, Sound Learning and Habitat for Humanity of Mason County.

Mason County Commissioner Kevin Shutty said that "as an elected official, I don't have a 15-step plan." The county's health department staff and community partners can team together on solutions, he said.

The 41 local overdose deaths in the past year show "why it's so important for us to gather ... so we can show support for loved ones and make a difference," said Abe Gardner, an emergency prevention specialist for the North Mason Fire District who overcame drug addiction.

Author Bio

Gordon Weeks, Reporter

Shelton-Mason County Journal & Belfair Herald

 

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