Walk in Forest Park will build awareness of opioid risk, treatment

FOREST PARK – Getting off of heroin and other opiate drugs is no walk in the park. However, to bring more awareness about the opioids, CareSTL will be doing just that. 

The income-based clinic is administering Project O, an opioid awareness walk. It’s free and runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, beginning at the upper Muny parking lot in Forest Park. 

On hand will be vendors with extensive information from the holistic treatment that the health clinic provides, to family resources. 

“This is a great cause; it will be a great day of education and opportunity to talk to people who are in the trenches for real who can answer questions and point out resources that many people don’t even know exist,” said Deneen Busby, director of marketing and communications for CareSTL. 

Former heroin user Wayne Martin is well aware of many of those services that the federally funded clinic offers, especially Medically Assisted Treatment. 

For about a year now, he’s been receiving the treatment. It hasn’t been a walk in the park, but he recently strolled through the park with his daughter and granddaughter, something he hadn’t done because heroin consumed his life. 

“I told him to get out there and enjoy his life, smell the flowers,” said Regina Askew, director of behavioral health. 

Martin and Askew were all laughs like old friends during a recent interview with The NorthSider, but Martin’s relationship with the debilitating drug has been anything but humorous. 

He was very candid about his heroin use, which started when he was about 14. He would eventually both use and sell. It lasted more 30 years. He saw more than a dozen friends overdose from the drug. He himself overdosed a few times but survived. He even spent several years in prison, wasting his life, he said. 

Former longtime users such as Martin usually follow a strict regimen through the clinic. They visit the site every day. The clinic provides transportation, because public transportation may involve triggers that can cause former users to relapse. 

“It’s a struggle, so we have to take baby steps,” Askew said, pointing out that blacks had been using the opioid for several years. Other opioids, such as Percocet, Oxycontin and Vicodin, aren’t considered heroin. 

She also said she was concerned about the cancer pain-abating drug fentanyl. It’s much more potent than heroin, and in recent years it has been added to heroin. 

“You can spend $10 on some heroine laced with fentanyl and die,” Martin said. 

“This is the kind of awareness that we want to get out there,” said Dr. Michael Spearman, an internist and director of medical services at CareSTL. He also participates in the substance use disorder program. 

“Awareness is a weapon,” he said.

Carter will be doing his part to get people off heroin or to stop them from getting on it in the first place. 

“I wasted my life away and I could have died, so I want to make sure people know about the affects of heroin,” Martin said. 

For more information and to register for the walk, call 314-367-5820, ext. 2292.

Bill Beene Bill Beene was born and raised in north St. Louis. He has been a journalist for 12 years. He enjoys cooking and roller skating. He lives in the historic Ville neighborhood.

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