WMC nurses’ parade float addresses heroin addiction

Posted: May 3, 2014

The Winchester Star

The nurses’ float will feature a blue background with pink and green decor in the front and posters that will draw attention to the drug problem.
Emergency Department nurse Alicia Herbaugh spearheaded the creation of the float.

WINCHESTER — Emergency Department nurses at Winchester Medical Center want to bring community awareness to the heroin epidemic and are starting with the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Grand Feature Parade.

“[Heroin has] been around for a while, but not to this extent,” said Desiree Brunelle, director of emergency services at the hospital. “[The nurses] are wanting to have a part in helping make it better.”

Heroin has hit the area hard during the last two years. After one reported heroin overdose death in 2012, 21 occurred in 2013.

Twelve deaths have been reported this year, and if the trend continues, the region is on track to have more than 40 by then end of the year.

“It’s kind of hit home with a lot of the nursing staff,” Brunelle said. “There are a lot of young people dying.”

She said the area’s epidemic has crossed all socio-economic lines. “It’s not just usual drug users [dying] any more. These are upstanding people who have families and jobs — it could be you or me or someone who works alongside of us.”

Today’s parade float will feature a blue background with pink and green decor in the front and posters that will draw attention to the drug problem.

“One poster has a big stop sign that says, ‘Stop the epidemic,’” Brunelle said.

Nurses riding on the float will release 12 black balloons along the parade route in memory of the 12 people who have died from heroin overdoses this year.

The float will be separate from the hospital’s unit and another nursing staff float.

The idea was led by Emergency Department nurse Alicia Herbaugh, who Brunelle said has become passionate about the issue.

“We’ve never done this before,” she said. “There’s a lot of energy going into prevention and awareness and I don’t think it will end with just the parade.”

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com