RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has declared Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, to be Overdose Awareness Day in the state.

According to a release from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, the day is about “remembering those whose lives have been lost to overdose, honoring family and community grief, and renewing our commitment to ending the overdose crisis in North Carolina.”

The day is also meant to recognize community and government partners who work together to combat the stigma associated with substance abuse and help increase access to services and support people need to recover.

“On this day, we remember those we have lost far too soon to overdoses, as well as their friends, families and communities,” Gov. Cooper said in the release. “We will continue to build on our meaningful investments to fight this crisis, including more health insurance with Medicaid expansion, significant investment in mental health and substance use disorder prevention and treatment and working to get illegal opioids and fentanyl off of our streets.”

According to DHHS, more than 33,000 North Carolinians died from drug overdose deaths from 1999-2021. An estimated 1.2 million people have a substance use disorder and an average of 11 people die every day in the state due to an overdose.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the crisis worse, DHHS said. In 2021, the state recorded its highest number of lives lost from an overdose — 4,041 people — in a single year.

The rates of overdose in North Carolina are increasing fastest among Black, Indigenous and people of color, as well as those involved in the justice system, according to DHHS. There was a 139% increase in Black/African American overdose rate from 2019-2021, and American Indian/Indigenous communities had the highest overdose rate in 2021 at 94.1 deaths per 100,000 people. DHHS also says people discharged from correctional facilities are 50 times more likely to die from an overdose in their first two weeks after being released than the general population.

The state has an Opioid and Substance Use Action Plan to help address the issue in North Carolina. In addition to steps to help people struggling with substance abuse, it also shares resources to help those trying to recover.