News Feature

The Island
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, March 16, 2023
OFIP marks Black Balloon Day
Reminders of those who died from drug overdoses

A message for the high schoolers

The black balloons at Deer Isle-Stonington High School got high school kids talking about the number of local deaths from opioid overdoses.

Photo courtesy of OFIP

by Leslie Landrigan

Black balloons in the shape of the numbers 46 fluttered from businesses, churches and the high school on March 6 to remind people that 46 people died from drug overdoses in Hancock County over the last two years.

The Opiate-Free Island Partnership distributed the balloons around the island.

Forty-six deaths in two years understates the problem, said Charlie Osborne, OFIP co-chairman, in a phone interview. For each overdose death, 14 are reversed by the opiate antidote Narcan in Maine.

OFIP has been distributing Narcan throughout the island, in the schools and at the ambulance corps, Osborne said at Stonington Town Meeting.

Both Stonington and Deer Isle town meetings voted to give $5,000 in tax money to OFIP this year

Osborne thanked those at Stonington town meeting and noted the towns had originally funded half of OFIP’s budget. “Now we get only 10 percent, but it’s extremely important,” he said. “Grantors want to know, ‘Is your community behind you?’”

Stonington resident Ron Dahlen questioned the approach. “It sounds like a lot of this enabling opioid abuse,” he said.

Osborne replied that OFIP was also reaching out to the schools with a prevention message.

OFIP gave dozens of black balloons, some in the shape of 46, to Deer Isle-Stonington High School that day. Administrative Assistant Moriah Nutter displayed them in the entryway.

Saige Brages, OFIP’s community liaison, said it had an impact. “Forty-six scared those high-schoolers,” Brages said at Stonington’s town meeting. “It could be any of them,” she said. “If any of you can say an overdose hasn’t affected you, you’re lucky.”

Osborne said Hancock County had 58.5 percent more opioid overdose deaths than the national average in 2021.