A Grassroots Movement for Overdose Prevention

There is a substance use disorder epidemic in our country. Yet, despite the many people who have substance use disorders, few get the help they need, and far too many die from an overdose.

Why isn’t our society doing more to address this problem? Why do people seem so content to chalk those deaths up to the consequences of bad choices?

The way we see it, our nation has fallen asleep to the preventable struggles of its citizens.

Our mission is to wake everyone up to see people with mental health and substance use disorders with compassionate eyes. By changing the conversation and promoting overdose prevention, we can help people receive the support they deserve without fear or shame.

Compassion Born Out of Tragedy

Our heart for people with substance use disorders stems from the personal tragedy of our Executive Director, Cassandra Wingert. When her boyfriend died from an overdose at the age of 22, it left her devastated. But the pain woke her up to the reality of the substance use epidemic. So, she vowed to help others going through loss and prevent as many needless overdose deaths as possible.

She founded Wake the Nation in 2012 to fight the substance use epidemic locally in Cook County, IL, and beyond. Over time, through experience and education from leading experts, Cassandra learned the best way to address the fatal epidemic was with compassion and proven techniques to reduce harm.

Today, we are a family-operated nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the national conversation about drug use. We’re also committed to meeting people where they’re at with harm reduction services.

Changing the Conversation

We believe in the power of words. This national travesty responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths stems from something as simple as the words we use. The way our culture continues to frame the discussion about substance use disorders has enabled the epidemic to continue.

Stigmatizing language has become the norm. For example, words like addict, junkie, dirty and user are common descriptors for people with substance use disorders. Such demeaning labels shame people for their health disorders and make it challenging for them to acquire medical care.  

So, while words may seem trivial, they form very real barriers to getting help.

For this reason, our organization speaks for those people that feel trapped in shame. We do this by hosting educational forums, speaking at public health events and working with community leaders and members. In this way, we raise awareness and promote compassion for the human beings we have let live in the shadows for far too long.

Providing Much Needed Support

Of course, our compassion cannot just stop at our words. That is why we make it a point to step into the shadows with tangible, life-saving support.

One way we do this is through free Naloxone training. We train people with substance use to give them the tools they need to prevent accidental fatal drug poisoning. And we do not just train people who use substances. We also train their loved ones and organizations, such as the US Department of Justice, Cook County Health Department and the Illinois Nursing Association.

We believe everyone should get trained because you never know when you will need to save a life.

Wake the Nation is also active in helping those who have lost loved ones to overdose. Our Holiday Memorial allows people to commemorate their loved ones by hanging a beautiful ornament on our tree in their honor. Not only does the display help people grieve, but it also raises awareness of just how prevalent overdose deaths still are in our society.

Raising Our Voices to Wake the Nation

We have done a lot over the years, but we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon! With fatal overdoses exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, our team remains dedicated to its humble grassroots foundation. We continue acting as first responders by working directly with those affected by substance use disorders.

As long as there are people with substance use disorders who need our help, we will raise our voice, advocate on their behalf and assist them and their families. Join us, won’t you? Give us a call at 708-785-0291 or email wakethenation@live.com to learn more about how you can help our cause.