CINCINNATI — Like most Saturdays, local leaders in the fight against the opioid epidemic gathered at the Hamilton County Justice Center to hand out free NARCAN Saturday.
Unlike most Saturdays, they were joined by Amy Parker as she celebrated 7 years of sobriety.
After working hard to face down her own addiction, Parker now works to help others survive and beat substance use disorders. She stood at the Hamilton County Justice Center, training people to use the life-saving drug as she gave them out Saturday afternoon.
"So what I often do is I hang out here at the Justice Center and I go into the veterans recovery pod and I share my story with the inmates," said Parker. "Or I'm in the hospitals or even skilled nursing facility meeting patients where they're at."
Parker developed an addiction to prescription painkillers after knee surgery as a teen, and eventually turned to heroin by the time she was 27.
At 30, she overdosed.
"I had a whole lot of wreckage throughout my twenties," said Parker. "Finally led me to overdosing on heroin in 2012. My body was pushed out of a vehicle and left for dead...that was definitely the moment when I started to reconsider the value of my life."
This is why, since becoming sober, Parker has worked to share her story with others who still struggle with their addictions. At the justice center Downtown, she isn't the only one with a story to tell.
Phillip McPherson, handing out NARCAN with the same group, is also a recovering addict. He attends support meetings and is in intensive outpatient treatment for his addiction; Saturday marked 96 days of sobriety for him.
"I hope it saves someone's life because there are a lot of addicts out there who need help," McPherson said. "I just hope I'm able to be there for someone one day who is in need of help."
He works to attend support groups five times a week, and he now has a full-time job. But his struggle, like many addicts', hasn't been simple or easy either.
"March 13 last year, my mom found me dead in my basement," he said. "Some firefighters came there and they saved my life. So I want to be able to help someone."
Health officials in Hamilton County say overdose deaths continue to go down overall, and programs handing out free NARCAN have contributed to that success.