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Leigh Gillies, Pharm D, BCPP
CPNP Public Education Committee
Clinical Pharmacist, University of Louisville Hospital, Louisville, KY

Courtney Eatmon, Pharm D, BCPP is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist working with veterans suffering from substance use disorders at the Lexington Veterans Affairs Health Care System. She also serves as an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Science at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy in Lexington, Kentucky. Her practice with the SATP (Substance Abuse Treatment Program) involves working with an interdisciplinary team to provide care for patients in outpatient recovery. As the clinical pharmacist on the team, she manages general mental health conditions as well as the patient’s substance use disorder. In addition to her substance use disorder practice at the VA, her work with the Voices of Hope’s annual Overdose Awareness Day allows Courtney to serve non-VA community members, who also suffer from substance use disorder.

Voices of Hope, is an addiction recovery center that provides and coordinates peer support and harm reduction services. It’s Overdose Awareness Day, a yearly summertime event, is held at a local park in Lexington, Kentucky. The event (for individuals who are grieving, in recovery, or seeking recovery) includes memorial space, messages of encouragement, meditative space, a picnic, resources for help, booths for other community providers, and overdose response training.

Courtney became involved with the Overdose Awareness Day even through a pharmacy school classmate, Jody Jaggers, who coordinates state-wide efforts of harm reduction and prevention of opioid abuse and overdose. Jody brings the state mobile pharmacy, (a 28-foot-long, fully self contained, mobile pharmacy trailer that can provide patient counseling and care, immunizations, public health education and medication preparation and dispensing), to this event. The mobile pharmacy is able to dispense Naloxone kits onsite. While participating in the Overdose Awareness Day event, Courtney oversees the activities of University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy Students and also counsels individuals on overdose prevention, recognition, and treatment. Though these are services that she often provides on a regular basis to her patients at the VA, Courtney, as well as the pharmacy students, are able to find new perspectives and to growth from the experience of working with a broader community at this event.

Serving the community at the annual Overdose Awareness Day allows both Courtney and her pharmacy students to gain a better understanding of the stigma and impact of substance abuse. The safe, judgement free space created by the event allows for patients and family members to freely share their experiences of having an overdose or witnessing a loved one have an overdose. Pharmacy students experience a more clear perspective of the impact of substance abuse. They gain appreciation that it is a very real crisis and does not discriminate. The event also provides inspiration to both attendees and volunteers. Speakers and attendees provide information on what recovery looks like, and how it can change lives. Through one of these events, Courtney was even able to connect with a recovered addict who now volunteers to share her experiences with stigma and her treatment journey with pharmacy students in the classroom. This additional touchpoint at the pharmacy school furthers the impact of this annual Overdose Awareness Day event.

Courtney really appreciates the experiences and connections offered by the Overdose Awareness Day. She notes “The only way we reduce stigma is to put ourselves out there and immerse ourselves as part of the community.” She also stresses the importance of connecting with your patient population in order to become a better advocate for those patients. She feels truly blessed to be able to learn and help these patients who are facing such struggles.

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