CLARION – Several county residents and elected officials joined with the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission (AICDAC) this past weekend to honor Clarion County’s first responders.

The first annual Recovery Respects First Responders event, which was held Sept. 8 in Veterans Memorial Park in Clarion, was organized as part of a state-wide event to give those who have suffered an opioid overdose an opportunity to thank the first responders who saved their lives.

“When a person is brought back from an overdose they don’t always think to thank the person who helped to save them,” AICDAC executive director Kami Anderson said, noting that the event was designed to bring overdose survivors and their life-saving first responders together. “First responders think they are just doing their job, but [to an overdose survivor] it’s so much more.”

The program featured speeches by two overdose survivors, both of whom credited first responders with giving them an opportunity to have a new life.

In speaking of his experience with first responders, Dustin Parsons — a recovery speaker who will celebrate nine years of sobriety in December — summed up the gratitude that so many individuals in similar circumstances feel.

“There’s a better life out there waiting for all of us. We just need someone to give us that hope,” he said. “I’d like to thank all the first responders who are here today. You guys have made it possible for so many of us in recovery.”

In talking about his addiction and recovery experience, Robert Beers said that even the birth of his daughter wasn’t enough to turn his life around. It took his own overdose and resuscitation with Naloxone to move him to recovery.

“As a community, our first responders are out there,” Beers said. “They’re taking the brunt of this battle out in the streets for us and putting a heartbeat back into the chests of these people. I applaud you for that.”

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Also during the program, three area EMS workers were recognized for the number of “saves” that they have. Farrah Murray and Bridget Murray both were recognized with four saves, and John Greenway has had more than 30 saves.

Recovery Champion awards were also given to two individuals who devote time to ensure that there are opportunities for individuals “to find, achieve and sustain recovery.”

The first award went to Clarion County Coroner Randall Stom, who works with groups such as the AICDAC to increase awareness and push for the availability of Naloxone.

In accepting his award, Stom said that the road to recovery may be bumpy, but the key to recovery is hope.

He urged everyone in the crowd to “never lose sight of the opportunities that are out there for each one of us.”

The second award recipient was state Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion), who said that like many in the crowd, she has known people who have dealt with addiction in their lives.

Highlighting her support for the availability of Naloxone, Oberlander said she often hears criticism on the amount of money spent on such programs.

“You’re worth it,” she said of overdose survivors. “I’m honored and humbled to be in your presence, and honored and humbled to be here with the first responders who deal with this every day.”

According to Anderson, between 15 and 20 first responders were present for the afternoon event — which also included food, door prizes and staffed tables representing various service organizations.

“We had a great turnout for our first event,” she said. “We’re so thankful everyone came out.”

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