Overdose Awareness Day – Lauren Pristo, MPH, Director of Community Engagement, and Alicia Peterson, RSS, Community Engagement Specialist


Usually around the third Wednesday of the month, we visit with the folks from McCall Behavioral Health Network. We have a pair of guests joining us on the program this morning. I want to welcome back Lauren Pristo, she’s the director of community engagement. It’s been a little while, Lauren. Welcome back. Thank you. And also, Alicia Peterson, who’s a Community Engagement Specialist with McCall. Alicia, welcome to the show. Thank you. Thank you both for joining us this morning. A pretty serious topic today. At the end of this month, we mark International Overdose Awareness Day. What’s this all about, ladies?

International Overdose Awareness Day is a day where we can recognize the grief of the folks we’ve lost, honor them, and let families and the community know that we are here walking alongside them.

So what are we doing in recognition of this through McCall Behavioral Health and your health partners?

Yep, and with the Litchfield County Opioid Task Force we have the Overdose Awareness Day Resource Fair and Vigil at Cope Park on August 31st.

So information wise, I mean this is a day to remember those we’ve lost, but also we want to share some knowledge here too, right? To try to keep this from going on.

Absolutely. I actually am in recovery myself. I have seven years clean, but before that I lost my father, my husband, my sister, and my son’s father all to overdose within two years.



That is remarkable. To you for your path so far, well done.

Thank you.

And best of luck. It’s not really luck, it’s hard work, isn’t it?

It is. Every day.


Well, good for that. And about the day, we recognize grief, we honor those we lost. And grief doesn’t really have a finish line. It isn’t something that, there isn’t really any closure on this, is there?

No, there isn’t. But we want to let people know that you don’t have to have a certain milestone to meet before you get help. We’re here to walk with you throughout the process. We can meet you where you’re at and help you get the resources you need.

You know, I think that’s a recurring message as I talk to the folks from McCall, is to meet people where they’re at. Often we hear the phrase, you’ve got to hit rock bottom before you can begin to head back up. That’s a bit of a misnomer, isn’t it? It is. Don’t wait until you get to rock bottom, right? Lauren, a little bit about that and not waiting for the time to be right for recovery.

Right. It’s, there isn’t ever a right time because, you know, as people walk that journey, there is a lot of ambivalence. And instead of waiting for a specific moment, we’re saying, now’s the time. And Alicia actually has a really good story about that, kind of recognizing that there is no end point and that there is just now, you know?

Yes, absolutely. Right after I had lost those four people, I was in my grief and decided that it was time for me to make a change. There was no certain point that I had to get to. It was just I was fed up with the life that I was living.

And I knew I had to change things for my two kids.

And that’s where you were. So meeting you where you were, that started the path in the right direction. It did. You had made up your mind that this life was over and it was time to move on. Well done. Let’s talk about people who may be grieving, people who may be worried about reaching out and not waiting if you’re in this space.

Right. So navigating that system, it can be a challenge. It can feel overwhelming. It can feel scary. I think for grief, especially as it relates to losing someone to an overdose, has a lot of layers. There’s layers of guilt and shame. And it’s important to really come together and recognize that that is a shared experience and that we’re all beside and behind you in that journey. Also I think I want to point out that there’s there’s kind of two sides to the messaging for this day as well because there’s both the grief but then there’s also a part of this day that we want to recognize the hope of the day. The hope that there is still opportunity for recovery, that overdose can be a preventable death, that naloxone and never using a loan can save lives. So that’s kind of this careful balance in the messaging that we want to share.

It’s really important that this messaging gets out locally too because in national coverage it tends to come and go, but that scourge, that epidemic that we hear about from time to time, that’s not abated at all, has it?

If anything, it’s only getting worse because we have a really unpredictable drug supply that is causing a lot of deaths. There’s fentanyl-lacing pills, there’s fentanyl-lacing just about everything in the illicit drug supply in various amounts. It’s extremely dangerous. In Connecticut we lost about 1,500 people last year. Nationally, over 100,000, I think close to 110,000 people in one year. It’s a devastating crisis to this day.

If you’re joining us, our guest this morning, Lauren Pristo, Director of Community Engagement. Alicia Peterson, a Community Engagement Specialist with McCall Behavioral Health Network. We’re talking about International Overdose Awareness Day. Let’s bring it full circle back to the event which is the end of this month. The where, the when, and what

people can expect at our location. International Overdose Awareness Day, we We are holding a vigil. It’s August 31st from 530 to 8. If you’re grieving or worried about someone, we are here to help. We can be reached at 860-496-2100 or at mccallbhn.org.

Lauren, anything to add?

Yep. And if you’re considering reducing or stopping use, there is help and we are here for you.

All right, very important message again. It’s August 31st coming up downtown Torrington at Coe Park. Ladies, thanks for joining us on the program. Can’t say this message enough and we’ll continue to reinforce it up into and beyond the day of the event. So thanks for joining us and the good work being beyond the day of the event. So thanks for joining us and the good work being done in McCall Behavioral Health Network. Best of the day to you both. Thank you.