LEXINGTON, Ky. — The state of Kentucky has the second highest death rate from substance overdoses with nearly 2,000 deaths in 2020—according to the most recent data from the CDC. Students at Bluegrass Community and Technical College are trying to aid in the fight against substance abuse with a new student organization providing resources to be an ally.
Addicts & Allies for Education, an organization founded by Sylvia Kidwell and her peers, was created in December 2021 at Bluegrass Community & Technical College on the Newtown campus as a safe space for people lost to or struggling with substance abuse. Their first event invited students, staff and community members in Lexington to a gathering and remembrance walk for people affected by substance abuse.
“You never get these big celebrations of life like you do when other people pass,” Kidwell said.
Kidwell is walking for her best friend Liz Land. It’s a long-overdue celebration for her best friend that was lost to a fentanyl overdose in 2016 in Hamilton, Ohio. She was joined by two of her five children and her husband for the journey of remembrance.
Her youngest daughter is the first person to come to mind when she remembers her best friend. She’s also who Kidwell named her youngest daughter after.
“I named her Phoenix because she is the only child that I have that has not been negatively impacted by my addiction so she is my rise from the ashes and she’s also named after Liz. Her name is Phoenix Elizabeth and Liz is who I’m placing the lock for today,” Kidwell said.
Kidwell placed the lock on the ‘Locks For Addiction’ fence in Lexington not just for her best friend but also for herself. She too was lost to addiction five years ago when she overdosed on fentanyl. Her miracle was two doses of Narcan administered by EMTs. Today, she’s reminded of why she founded Addicts & Allies for Education.
“As someone who’s in recovery, we’ve all lost someone and I think losing someone makes you a stronger ally because you find that passion for seeing people recover,” Kidwell said.
It’s a passion the BCTC student found in December 2021 with her peers by her side, including Alexandrea Shouse, who has suffered from substance abuse as well.
“This inspires other places, this inspires the community and community members to reach out and help heal. If I can be a part of that and help the other generations of the community, that’s what I want to be a part of,” Shouse said.
Kidwell hopes the remembrance walks can be on a semester basis and spread to more KCTCS campuses. Addicts and Allies for Education said they would like to welcome more BCTC students to join them. Meetings are every fourth Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m. at the Newtown classroom building.