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Gabi Deaton’s Black Balloon Project Art Exhibit at Life Learning Center focused on overdose epidemic

In collaboration with Gabi Deaton, HEALing Communities Study Prevention Specialist, Life Learning Center will host The Black Balloon Project Art Exhibit on Saturday, March 4.

This event will be held from noon-3 p.m. with remarks by photographer Gabi Deaton at 1:30 p.m. and a speech by Kelly Sanders, secretary of the Brent Howell Foundation, and a song performance by Cody Gillespie. Cody lost her mother to an overdose in 2010.

The Black Balloon Project is a photo collection created to highlight the devastating impact that the overdose epidemic has had on our community.

The project is used to bring awareness to the grief that overdose deaths leave behind as well as working to end the stigma towards individuals with substance use disorder. Each photo in the gallery is accompanied by a description of the person who has passed away in order to show who the person was outside of their substance use disorder.

Deaton is not only the photographer behind The Black Balloon Project, but she is also a woman in recovery for over 12 years. Stumbling into addiction at the age of 13, Gabi spent the next 7 years of her life in a downward spiral overdosing twice in downtown Cincinnati and revived by Narcan both times. In January of 2011, after being addicted to intravenous heroin for 4 years, she was court-ordered to treatment at The Brighton Recovery Center for women – it was there that she began her journey into recovery.

“The Black Balloon Project sheds a harsh light on the reality of addiction within our community,” said Deaton. “Each person in these photos – they matter, their lives matter and their stories need to be told. However, sometimes the world doesn’t listen, until you scream. This is us screaming.”

Acting as both photographer and representative of HEALing Communities Study, Deaton will attend the event along with partner agencies KY Finding Cases, offering free HIV and HEP C Testing; Voices of Hope; St. Elizabeth Journey Recovery; Office of Drug Control Policy – NKY Addiction Helpline; NKY Hates Heroin; Casey’s Law and Life Learning Center.

HEALing Communities Study will also be distributing Narcan at the event.

Raffle tickets will be sold to raise funds to support The Brent Howell Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists individuals enter recovery housing, increasing their likelihood to sustain long-term recovery. In 2022, The Brent Howell Foundation helped 115 individuals get into recovery housing through financial assistance.

The Black Balloon Project Art Exhibit is especially relevant to Life Learning Center; in 2021, 97% of Life Learning Center Candidates reported a history of substance use when enrolling in the program. Utilizing grant dollars from the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE), Life Learning Center provides Candidates and Members access to a full continuum of clinical and non-clinical services in one physical location.

As one of only eleven Recovery Community Centers (RCC) in Kentucky, Life Learning Center offers a minimum of five diversified recovery support meetings weekly and collaborates with multiple community partners that offer outpatient substance use disorder treatment on-site. Life Learning Center seeks to reconnect families who might have suffered the effects of substance use disorder, serving as a host site for Family Reunification meetings for Candidates required to participate in supervised visitation.

Life Learning Center has developed and implemented an innovative 12-week intensive evidence-based program focused on addressing barriers in five domains of life: physical, financial, spiritual, relational, and emotional, coupled with a care continuum supported by nearly 150 residential and community partners. This holistic integrated continuum of education and care facilitates transformational change, long-term employment, and dignity for the “at-risk” citizens of Northern Kentucky. In addition, Life Learning Center serves as a focal point of resources for community-based recovery support, including peer support, a diverse array of recovery support groups, employment supports, and life skills training necessary for employment retention. Given the at-risk population served by Life Learning Center, the organization is all too familiar with substance use disorder, overdoses, and the consequences for families.

The success of Life Learning Center is recognized throughout the Commonwealth. In 2020, St. Elizabeth Healthcare approached Life Learning Center (as well as Brighton Center and Northern Kentucky Area Development District) to partner in the “Lift Up” Collaborative to address financial stability and independence for individuals struggling with substance use disorder.

In the fall of 2023, LLC will be expanding its offerings; St. Elizabeth Healthcare Journey Recovery Center (JRC) will open on-site facilities on the upper floor of Life Learning Center, bringing yet another critical regional service. JRC will offer a comprehensive menu of treatment programs, basic healthcare, as well as support to mothers through their Baby Steps Program to an anticipated 1,500 patients annually. This innovative collaboration creates a bi-lateral pipeline for individuals suffering substance use disorder, coupled oftentimes with criminal convictions and untreated mental/physical health issues. Additionally, individuals will have full access to existing in-house partners and will have the opportunity to enroll in Life Learning Center’s Foundations for a Better Life Curriculum.

For more information on Life Learning Center, visit https://www.lifelearningcenter.us/. Event information can be found at: https://fb.me/e/3iwf3aRDu. For information about the Brent Howell Recovery Scholarship Fund, visit: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100067901261884.

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