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Snapshots of the National Safety Council's Memorial to the Victims of the Opioid Crisis

The interactive art installation in Chicago includes a wall made of medicine pills, each individually carved with images of the 22,000 people who died last year due to prescription opioid overdose.

Each year, 22,000 Americans die from a prescription opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And over the past 18 years, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) has quadrupled, creating a nationwide epidemic.

To help raise awareness around this epidemic, Stericycle Inc., a leading provider of essential and highly specialized compliance-based solutions, has joined the National Safety Council (NSC) as the exclusive medication disposal partner for its “Stop Everyday Killers” national education campaign, which illustrates the faces behind the numbers, educates people on the scope of the problem and promotes solutions to address the crisis. Through this campaign, Stericycle will provide its Seal&Send Envelopes for easy and safe disposal of unused and no longer needed medications, helping to keep them out of landfills and waterways.

"We are working with NSC to not only acknowledge those who have been impacted and lost their lives to the opioid epidemic but to also educate people on some of the solutions that are out there to combat this issue," says Jennifer Koenig, vice president of corporate communications at Stericycle. "One solution is to start a conversation with your medical professionals and to ask questions about any prescription you are given to understand if it's an opioid and what that could mean to you. Another solution is to clean out your medicine cabinet and use Stericycle's Seal&Send Envelopes to mail those medications that are no longer needed back to Stericycle for safe and easy disposal."

As part of the campaign, NSC showcased Prescribed to Death: A Memorial to the Victims of the Opioid Crisis, an interactive art installation in Chicago, this week. The memorial featured a wall made of medicine pills, each individually carved with images of the 22,000 people who died last year due to prescription opioid overdose. Additionally, a new pill bearing a human face was 3D printed onsite and added to the wall every 24 minutes to represent the fact that someone dies every 24 minutes from an opioid overdose.

“Our nation is in the midst of the worst drug crisis in recorded history, but we know there are things we can do to save lives,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, in a statement. “The campaign honors those who have been lost to this epidemic while also offering hope and empowering visitors to take action. One of the simplest things they can do is clean out their medicine cabinets, and Stericycle is making that much easier. We are proud to collaborate with them on this important issue.”

The memorial also included three separate rooms to tell the stories of three people who have been victims of the opioid crisis. "These powerful stories helped to promote the message that this crisis is not a street epidemic or a problem that's specific to a race, age or income level; it's an epidemic that impacts all of us," states Koenig. 

The exhibit is now closed in Chicago, but it will be on view at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta in April 2018 and other cities pending an itinerary from NSC. 

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