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Hope and healing: How a local program is creating awareness around fentanyl and overdoses

Aperture of Hope is hosting a community event in El Jebel on Sunday, Aug. 21

Aperture for Hope is hosting its second annual Fentanyl and Overdose Awareness event on Sunday, Aug. 21. The event will end with an "Honor Walk."
Gregg Cath Photographers/Courtesy Photo

Roaring Fork Valley resident Cath Adams started Aperture of Hope to help spread awareness around substance use disorders, addiction and recovery.

Adams’ daughter Emily was introduced to substances in high school and her senior year willingly sought treatment for a substance use disorder in Phoenix. Emily underwent treatment for a few years and ultimately graduated from the program and moved to Tucson to start her life, Adams said.

During the time Emily was in treatment, Adams started building a program — Aperture of Hope — to help not only raise awareness but to start changing the language around addiction and substance use disorders.



“I started building the Aperture of Hope program to create awareness and help people with substance use disorder because there’s so much shame and stigma that’s built around it that actually, we’re not treating it like a disease; we’re judging rather than helping that individual,” Adams said.

Adams and her husband are professional photographers, so when she started the program, it was designed to create photography outlets for individuals facing challenges in life. The idea, Adams said, was “to be able to capture imagery that may be able to reflect what they’re currently going through now or reflect stories that they want to tell.”



But in 2020, the program transformed into even more when Adams and her family faced the unimaginable: Emily passed away at the age of 21 from fentanyl poisoning.

Emily had been suffering from a toothache and purchased what she thought were painkillers, but which turned out to be fentanyl. She was 18 months sober at the time of her passing and her toxicology report showed that aside from the fentanyl, there were no other substances in her system, Adams said.

Emily Adams passed away from fentanyl poisoning at age 21. Now, her mom, Cath, and sister Ashley are helping to spread awareness about the dangers of fentanyl and provide the community with valuable resources.
Courtesy Photo

Now, Aperture of Hope has grown to include a multitude of efforts including advocacy, peer support, recovery coaching, public speaking, healing arts and photography as well as community building. And this August, it is hosting its second annual Fentanyl & Overdose Awareness Day Event in El Jebel. Not only does the event fall within Overdose Awareness Month, but also it will be hosted on Sunday, Aug. 21, which is National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day.



The event is being put on by Adams and her daughter Ashley as a way to continue creating awareness as well as connect individuals with resources around fentanyl and overdoses. The event will include a number of informational booths from local and state organizations, live music, Narcan training (with Narcan and fentanyl test strips available) as well as speakers with lived experiences.

Ultimately, it will conclude with an Honor Walk, where community members will carry white flags in a walk around the park, with messages written on the flags “for their angels that have passed away,” Adams said.

Purple flags serve as a visual representation of overdose awareness. August is Overdose Awareness Month and Aug. 21 is now recognized as National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day.
Gregg Cath Photographers/Courtesy Photo

The list of vendors includes Aperture of Hope, A Way Out, Aspen Strong, Aspen Hope Center, Pathfinders, Midvalley Family Practice, The RedPoint Center, High Rockies Harm Reduction, Discovery Cafe, Sober AF Entertainment, Embark Peer Coach Academy and Momenta Recovery.

From these booths, Adams hopes that community members will be able to ask questions, get answers and see that “there is help somewhere, somehow.”

While the event in August will provide a good opportunity for the community to come together, Cath and Ashley Adams have been working year-round to teach individuals in the community about fentanyl and to share their stories in the hopes that it will help others. 

“My 18-year-old daughter and myself this past school year had talked to several schools and I feel like we’ve reached out to easily over 2,000 kids,” Adams said, adding that they use these events as an opportunity not only to share their story but to hand out fentanyl tool kits, which share about the dangers of fentanyl and contain homemade “You Matter” bracelets. “We’re just constantly reaching out.”

This has included speaking engagements at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards as well as Battle Mountain High School.

Ashley Adams speaks at the 2021 Aperture for Hope event. Ashley and her mom, Cath, provide year-round advocacy, peer support, recovery coaching and more through the program.
Gregg Cath Photographers/Courtesy Photo

“Just with my lived experience of losing a daughter — which there’s no words — I’m finding more and more parents, just in our valley, that lost their kids, and it’s just really, really sad,” Adams added.

Through both their year-round outreach and the Aug. 21 Fentanyl and Overdose Awareness event, Adams hopes that the community has a few takeaways.

  • “No one is immune from fentanyl poisoning;”
  • “Fentanyl is easy to get and accessible on many social media platforms and they can be delivered to your home as quickly as ordering a pizza;”
  • “Communicate and talk to your kids and reach out if you need help. Listen to our voices, we are fighting to save lives;” and
  • “Don’t take anything that anybody gives you.”

But ultimately, for Adams, it’s about spreading awareness and letting other community members know that there are resources available and they are not alone.

“When I had questions back in 2017, I felt like I was walking alone,” Adams said. “Now, we’re just constantly creating this awareness; it’s part of our healing and it’s also just what people need to know.”

To learn more about Aperture of Hope, visit ApertureofHope.com.

If you go…

What: Facing Fentanyl: Fentanyl Awareness and Overdose Awareness Event

Where: Crown Mountain Park (501 Eagle County Drive, El Jebel)

When: Sunday, Aug. 21 starting at 4 p.m.

Resources and numbers to know:

988: the new national number for suicide and crisis lifeline

911: Colorado has Good Samaritan Laws; if you suspect a drug overdose or fentanyl poisoning, call 911

970-306-4673: the phone number for local 24/7 crisis support from Your Hope Center

Visit OpiRescue.com or download OpiRescue on your iPhone or Android app store: this is a Colorado app that walks you through what to do if you run across an overdose


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