BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Sharing a personal experience can inspire others and be a powerful motivator. It’s one of the reasons why recovery festivals have been growing in popularity across the country. 

What You Need To Know

  • Brevard Recovery Fest on Saturday is a free event for everyone

  • The event will unite resources across the county from Florida Department of Health and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office to La Amistad Behavioral Health Services and Safe Place Treatment Services

  • Narcan will be among the items available for distribution at the event

Now, for the first time, Brevard County will be added to that list. The free event, Brevard Recovery Fest, is being chaired by Laura McCarthy, who said after floating the idea at a meeting of the Brevard Prevention Coalition, the group immediately sprang into action to plan.

Top sponsors of the event include Unconditional Loving, Inc.; the Florida Department of Children and Families; and Central Florida Cares Health System, but McCarthy said there are about 80 participating groups, with more that wanted to join. 

For a first-time event, she said the overwhelming interest shows how ready and eager the Space Coast is to tackle this issue.

“Collaboration is key to helping anyone with a substance use or mental health disorder because a lot of times, one organization won’t have what one person needs, but they have a whole network of support in the county that they rely on,” McCarthy said. 

Experts say that so-called “drug poisoning” has been a growing problem on the Space Coast. According to the Florida Department of Health, in 2020, Brevard County ranked third highest in the state in terms of the most age-adjusted deaths from drug poisoning per 100,000 people. It was only surpassed by Citrus and Volusia counties.

That rate has been rapidly growing over the past six years of data. In 2013, the rate was 18.8 per capita compared to 12.1 across the state. By 2020, the number in Brevard jumped to 66.7 per capita compared to 34.6 in Florida.

The journey and struggles of recovery are far from a strange world for McCarthy. Like many others who take on the role of counselor or adviser, she too has struggled with substance abuse in the past. 

She chronicled her journey in her 2020 memoir, “Mess to Majestic.” McCarthy is now 37 years into her recovery journey and said the people around her have been instrumental in turning her from being angry at the world to a more healthy lifestyle. 

McCarthy said that was the driving force for her desire to help others in Brevard County.

“I owe my life to recovery — I owe my life to law enforcement," she said. "I am so thankful and grateful for everything that I’ve been blessed with in recovery. I want to give back.”

“It saddens me and breaks my heart to see people die of addictions when I know there’s help and there’s hope that you don’t have to die," she added. "You don’t have to suffer.”

The Brevard Recovery Fest will be held at Wickham Park in Melbourne Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information about the event and resources, click here.