Caroline Goes Purple hosts ‘If Only’ screenings
RIDGELY — Caroline Goes Purple hosted two screenings of “If Only,” a short film about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, the capstone event to a monthlong push to raise awareness about opioid addiction.
The screenings were held at North Caroline High School Monday, Sept. 24, and at Colonel Richardson High School Thursday, Sept. 27.
In addition to the screening, attendees heard from the film’s producer, who is both a recovering addict and the parent of one, and from a local woman who lost her daughter to an accidental overdose.
The event wrapped up with an ice cream social, to give parents and kids a chance to talk about what they learned, and a resource fair, full of information on local prevention and treatment options.
Everything was free and open to the public.
Caroline County Sheriff Randy Bounds opened the North Caroline screening by saying this year’s first annual Caroline Goes Purple initiative aimed to spark a conversation between parents and children, not only about opioid abuse but about a lot of difficult topics, and to end the stigma that contributes to continued abuse.
“We want to send the message to those struggling with addiction that
this community supports recovery,” Bounds said.
Before showing the movie, producer James Wahlberg, executive director of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, commended the large turnout.
“To get parents and people from the community to come out and have this conversation is a hard thing,” Wahlberg said. “People are busy, and they don’t want to talk about this stuff.
“But if we don’t have that conversation, the numbers will keep going up,” he said.
Wahlberg shared his own story of starting to drink alcohol regularly in sixth grade, while moving from school to school, until eventually he became a ward of his home state of Massachusetts. By the time he was 17, he was in state prison. It was during his second stint in prison, in his early 20s, that he found a program to help with his addiction.
“I found substances at a very early age, and became dependent on them to feel comfortable in my own skin,” Wahlberg said.
Wahlberg said opioid addiction is different in that it often starts with a legitimate prescription, for pain medication, and it does not take long to become addicted.
He said he made the movie four years ago to start the conversation between kids and anyone who has an influence on them.
“If you don’t have that conversation with them, someone else will, with wrong information: ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s no big deal, give it a try,’” Wahlberg said.
After the screening, Wahlberg introduced a local mother, who lost her daughter to an accidental overdose in 2012.
Following the mother’s speech was a question and answer session with Bryan Ebling, director of the Caroline County Department of Emergency Services; Katie Dilley, executive director of Mid Shore Behavioral Health; and Trish Todd, program manager for Maryland Coalition of Families.
Ebling said there have been 52 overdoses in Caroline County in 2018, and seven suspected deaths, pending autopsy results.
Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse an opioid overdose, has been administered 79 times in the county this year, Ebling said. Of those doses, 60 were administered by an emergency medical services worker, 15 by a law enforcement officer, two by a health care provider and two by a lay person.
Dilley encouraged everyone to take advantage of the free Narcan training offered there that night, and to carry it with them.
Caroline County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia Saelens wrapped up that part of the event by saying the Caroline Goes Purple initiative is just the beginning of what the community needs to combat opioid addiction.
“I challenge everyone here to spread the word,” Saelens said. “If you know an addict, inspire them to get help. If you know someone in recovery, encourage them.
“We can have a powerful impact on our kids and our community,” she said.