The NOPE Task Force was conceived in Palm Beach County, Florida, in 2002 by community leaders concerned about the drug overdose crisis and family members who had lost loved ones to drug-related deaths. At that time, Palm Beach County had the fastest-growing rate of drug overdose deaths in Florida.
Striving to realize their vision — a world free of overdose deaths — NOPE seeks to “diminish the frequency and impact of overdose death through community education, family support, and purposeful advocacy.” The nonprofit organization offers education, treatment support, support for families, and advocacy.
The NOPE message is geared toward middle and high-school students, as well as college students, and educators conduct outreach at schools, community centers, and places of worship. Using hard-hitting statistics and real-life stories, NOPE’s high-impact multimedia presentations pull no punches to get their message across regarding the dangers and consequences of drug use.
NOPE presentations are free of charge and delivered by law enforcement representatives along with parents who have lost a child to drug overdose. The personal, tragic stories of loss told by parents are especially moving and effective. NOPE presenters, school counselors, and teachers know the presentations are effective, as many students seek help for themselves or for a friend after the session concludes.
One of the parent presenters, Susan Korabek, whose son Landon Korabek died in 2010 from a prescription drug overdose, says, “A young woman once told me that she recently refused pills offered at a party because she’d remembered Landon’s story and how just one of night of experimentation cost him his life.” Susan explains, “This is why I tell Landon’s story—to potentially save one life by planting seeds that may stop a tragic decision.”
The growing threat of overdoses
Government statistics continue to paint a grim picture when it comes to overdose risks. Public health agencies, including the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Centers for Disease Control, collect data on drug and alcohol-related deaths in the United States. They report the following from the most recent data:
- An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
- More than 70,000 people died of drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2017. 75% of overdose deaths were attributed to opioids.
- 5,455 of the overdose deaths in 2017 occurred in those ages 15-24.
- More than 18 million Americans had a substance abuse disorder in 2017.
NOPE provides a wealth of resources, including treatment options, family support, educational information on addiction, prescription drug abuse, and overdose and resources geared specifically to students or parents. The website also provides links for information on NOPE presentations and research regarding the program’s efficacy.
Students are invited to become NOPE Certified, and, if they successfully complete the certification process, they become eligible for the NOPE Scholarship Award in Memory of Richard Perry. As part of the certification, students must complete two projects chosen from topics like Addiction and the Teenage Brain, Just One Time Can Kill, Combining Drugs Can Cause Overdose, and Be the Hero: Tell Someone. Certification activities are geared toward teaching participants the importance of living a drug-free life.
On the last Thursday in October, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the NOPE Task Force join together to host the Annual NOPE Candlelight Vigil. Communities across the country gather in unity to remember those lost to substance abuse and to offer support and hope to those still suffering from the disease of addiction.
Too often addiction is stigmatized as something shameful and not recognized as a disease that can affect anyone in any walk of life. One purpose of the NOPE vigil is to raise awareness, remove this sense of shame, and empower those in need to seek recovery. The vigil presents a beautiful and moving opportunity to come together as a community to memorialize lost loved ones and support those left behind.
Although the national day of recognition for the NOPE Candlelight Vigil is the last Thursday in October, local chapters and other groups often host their vigil on a different date. This year, six of the seven local Florida chapters of NOPE plan to hold their own community vigils. Lee County held their vigil in September, but the other Florida Vigils are still upcoming. NOPE of Hillsborough is hosting their 9th Annual Candlelight Vigil on October 10, 2019 at the Hillsborough High School Auditorium & Lawn. The NOPE of Pinellas Candlelight Vigil is planned for October 17, 2019 at Largo Central Park.
The NOPE website hosts an online memorial for those lost to drugs or alcohol. Families and friends are invited to create a memorial for their own loved one, sharing memories, stories, and photos, and can even light a virtual candle to dedicate along with a special message.
NOPE provides a voice for those lost to substance abuse, their families, and a nation affected by a national substance abuse crisis. As advocates, NOPE fights for legislation to reduce our nation’s drug use challenges. They speak on behalf of those who can’t and advocate for meaningful reform at the state and local levels of government.
As they state on their website, NOPE seeks to bring its message “to both public and private forums in order to focus attention on this epidemic and to put a human face on the debate.”
The NOPE task force describes how every day as they enter their office in West Palm Beach, they pass a wall at the entrance “filled with faces of those who died of drug overdoses, many looking forever happy in photos taken when long life seemed so certain.” NOPE provides a voice for those individuals, for their families, and for our communities.
If you’re inspired to help the cause, see the “Get Involved” links for ways to support NOPE through advocacy, donations, or starting a new chapter.