Scores of people filled the campus of St. Mark United Methodist Church to take advantage of the many free resources available at the Community Health Fair on Saturday, Sept. 10.
USC School of Pharmacy and LA Recovery Connect co-sponsored the afternoon event, which offered COVID and flu vaccines, wellness screenings, and educational booths. The program also included raffle prizes, musical entertainment and nutritious refreshments. In addition, the health fair featured a fentanyl awareness panel discussion and training on using Naloxone, which counters fentanyl overdoses.
The activity was presented to illustrate St. Mark’s motto, said Pastor Gary Bernard Williams – “a church in the heart of the community with the community at heart.” Also, as he realized the devastating impact that fentanyl is having on youth, he decided to partnered with other organizations to present the fair and the panel.
The medical experts serving on the panel were Dr. Allison Chacon, a pharmacist specializing in managing patient’s medication and improving health outcomes; Mattie Madeline Hilliard, a pharmacist and the founder of TACO – Trojan Awareness Combatting Overdose; Luckie Alexander Fuller, a prevention training specialist and an artist responsible for the Hollywood “All Black Lives Matter” mural; and Tyrone Nance, a lead community specialist at USC as well as a public speaker and veteran community organizer.
The panelists addressed many common questions including defining the drug’s man-made properties, detailing the components that make fentanyl deadly, and naming the indicators (such as pin-point pupils and labored breathing) to determine if a person is nearing an overdose. They also shared tips on harm reduction and drug prevention.
“Being a recovering addict myself, I know that a lot of young people are involved with drugs that are laced with fentanyl, so I thought this was something we needed to educate our selves on and bring more awareness to the community and especially to our church,” explained Williams, who has over 19 years of sobriety.
The pastor united with Tina Golden of LA Recovery Connect along with USC Pharmacy, APLA Health, CORE and TACO. Together, the organizations developed an enlightening event to aid people in attaining good health along with recognizing and combatting negative elements, such as fentanyl and drug abuse, in the local community.
“Next, I hope to meet with more clergy about the pharmacy the USC is constructing on Manchester and Broadway in South L.A.,” the pastor said. “I hope to get more churches engaged and willing to open up their doors to these types of conversations. We want people to stop abusing drugs and we also want to help get them to a safe place.”
Minister Loretta Randle was among the attendees responding to Williams’ invitation to get more involved. Randle, who is a leader in When Grandmothers Pray, said, “This was a great health fair and I’ll be sharing this information about fentanyl awareness with other grandmothers in my organization and throughout the community-at-large.”