For the second year in a row, Kelsea Kephart is organizing a 5K run to bring awareness to the opioid epidemic — an event inspired by the death of her cousin, Jessica Mulgrew, to a fatal heroin overdose.
Last year’s “Stomp Out Heroin” event attracted roughly 600 people and raised $26,000 for the Up and Out Foundation, a Frederick County charity that works to provide education and fund treatment options for residents in recovery. Kephart called the display of support “overwhelming,” especially after her cousin’s death in March 2016.
“I know that sometimes, in that moment, it’s easy to feel angry and like no one is doing anything,” said Kephart, a Myersville resident. “But then it was a really awesome feeling to come out and see more than 500 people who were doing something. It was so nice seeing all the families and friends — everyone who’s been affected by the heroin epidemic — coming together and meeting.”
This year, Kephart hopes to raise $30,000 for the Up and Out Foundation and provide more education on opioid addiction. Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins will speak at the event, as will local residents currently going through the recovery process.
Local fundraisers are vital to the Up and Out Foundation, which has struggled to keep up with financial requests from Frederick County residents in active addiction, said founder Korey Shorb. In 2017, the nonprofit spent $29,097 to provide housing and admission fees for people entering rehab or sober living homes.
Up and Out also provided $1,900 that year to help 22 people pay for Vivitrol — a monthly injection that blocks the effects of opioids and is often used as a treatment for substance abuse. The medication often requires a pricey copay or administration fee that not all patients can afford, Shorb said.
“Unfortunately, it takes money to get people into treatment,” he said. “Usually, the biggest barrier is financial. There are treatment centers out there that don’t take any insurance, but they take credit cards or cash. So, if you can pay, they’d take you tomorrow.”
The high costs associated with substance abuse treatment can make it challenging to keep up with patients in need of treatment. Earlier this year, the foundation had to deny requests for service due to a lack of funding, Shorb said.
Education and access to recovery is especially important to Kephart, whose cousin remained unconscious for at least 30 minutes after overdosing because her friends were too afraid to call for help. She wants the community to be aware of resources such as naloxone — a nasal medication that can reverse opioid overdoses — and the Good Samaritan law, which protects people from arrest if they call 911 after a drug overdose.
The show of support at last year’s race made Kephart more optimistic about tackling the issue.
“I was just completely overwhelmed by the amount of people who came out and the amount of money we raised,” she said. “I was just so happy and grateful that so many people cared.”