Harm reduction awareness concert providing resources to prevent fentanyl overdoses
Caroline Edinger and her brother Thomas could talk about the power of music to connect and heal people. Music is what bound them together as siblings when they lived together in Denver. She remembers singing while he played his acoustic guitar on camping trips (he knew 386 different songs to cover) and collaborating with other musicians in town. The music struck a chord with both of them.
In November 2020, Thomas died of an accidental fentanyl overdose at the age of 33. Caroline says he was a secret user and most of his friends and family were unaware of his drug use. “He was secretly buying street oxy, and nobody really knew,” she says. “It was working pretty well.”
Caroline remembers Thomas as someone very involved in his community. He was politically active and part of a phone bank for the Biden campaign in 2020. He also worked for the Blue Bench, a nonprofit helping victims of sexual assault, and Forests Forever, a preservation organization , and knocked on countless doors as a canvasser. . But his music is what many, including Caroline, remember him most. “He had an innate talent…[he] could just pick up any instrument and hear a melody and be able to just play,” Caroline says. “When I moved here to live with him in 2015, we started going to these open mics at the Squire Lounge, and from there, the people who ran them had one around town most nights of the week.”
After Thomas passed away, Caroline wanted to do something to honor her love of music and raise awareness about the fentanyl crisis, and in September 2021 she hosted the Thomas Edinger Memorial Concert at the Roxy on Broadway. “In the name of his death, I wanted there to be awareness around this terrible epidemic in our country which obviously touched me deeply,” says Caroline. “I looked around: ‘What are the organizations that defend people like that?’ I came across the Harm Reduction Action Center in Denver, which is a non-profit organization.
The Harm Reduction Action Center is an organization that provides resources to people who inject drugs (PWID). “PWIDs have the opportunity to properly dispose of used syringes, access sterile syringes, and are offered referrals/resources,” says Lisa Raville, executive director of the Harm Reduction Action Center. three afternoons a week and providing citywide needle clean-up efforts. »
The Harm Reduction Action Center has also worked to help pass seven statewide laws over the past twelve years. One of the bills, SB 15-053, passed in 2015, dramatically expanded access to naloxone, also known as Narcan, which reverses narcotic overdoses. The law authorizes the chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to distribute naloxone to pharmacies and organizations such as the Harm Reduction Center.
At the 2021 concert, Caroline wanted to bring these resources to people in a relaxed atmosphere that also honored her brother. Musicians such as Kaitlyn Williams, Brothers of Brass and Avery Jacob have performed, and all proceeds have been split between the Harm Reduction Action Center, Blue Bench, Colorado Rising and Clean Water Action. The concert had a fairly large attendance, raising around $1,500 for the organizations.
Caroline hopes to beat that amount with a second gig this year. It will take place at Goosetown Tavern on Friday, November 11, and many of the fifteen bands playing have members who knew Thomas.
This year’s show will not be called the Thomas Edinger Memorial Concert, but the Harm Reduction Awareness Concert. It’s less about mourning and more about raising awareness of the fentanyl crisis. “I really want to talk about awareness, about fentanyl overdoses — overdoses in general,” Caroline says.
The Harm Reduction Action Center will bring supplies to the event, including boxes of Narcan and fentanyl test strips. Caroline notes that during her time in the music community, it has become apparent that the fentanyl crisis is hitting the music and arts communities hard, and she wants to bring as many resources directly to them as possible.
“People who seek euphoria should not be stigmatized,” says Caroline. “I don’t want another family to have to go through what I went through.”
The Harm Reduction Awareness Concert, 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, Goosetown Tavern, 3245 East Colfax. Tickets are $10 online and $15 at the door.