LORAIN, Ohio — The opioid epidemic has grown at an alarming rate, killing record numbers of Ohioans every day.
On Wednesday, the community comes together to shine a light on the problem on International Overdose Awareness Day and break the stigma surrounding it.
Community leaders and those who have lost loved ones say it starts with an open conversation.
“Heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, crack, prescription drugs – they’ll all kill you,” said North Ridgeville mother Patty Hart.
Enough is enough.
It’s a strong and deeply personal message coming from Hart’s mother of four.
She tragically lost her sons, Marcus and Nathan, to a drug overdose.
On International Overdose Awareness Day, survivors of the opioid epidemic and those directly affected are breaking their silence and sharing their stories of hope, healing and action.
“We can’t give up because they are mothers, they are fathers, they are loved ones praying to God that they don’t receive the call we have received… We need to encourage them. Reach out “said Cerf.
This all follows Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announcing that the state is observing Overdose Awareness Day for the second year in a row.
September in Ohio will be dedicated to recovery month.
Lorain County officials said this year has seen an increase in overdoses and deaths.
On Wednesday evening, they open the floor for people to gather at a community vigil.
“It’s time to bring this to the forefront so we can talk about it – the same way we would talk about it, you know if someone’s family was affected by diabetes or, you know, something like that”, said Jinx Mastney, Opioid Response Outreach Coordinator for the Lorain County Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services Commission.
The CDC reports that more than 107,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2021.
That’s a 15% jump from 2020.
Preliminary figures from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner showed 714 people died of drug overdoses last year. In 2020, 533 people overdosed and died. In Lorain County, 143 people lost their lives due to drug overdoses.
Officials say the pandemic has also complicated the opioid epidemic, leading to relapses and preventing recovering addicts from getting needed treatment and resources that were once so readily available.
Hart says her pain will never go away, but she encourages everyone to now work together to end the epidemic of drug overdose deaths.
“Even through the pain, we have to talk…I’m the voice of my boys and that’s how I keep them alive,” Hart said.
A vigil is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Spitzer Conference Center at Lorain County Community College.
It should last until 8 p.m.
Officials will distribute free naloxone kits and provide other resources.
Everyone is encouraged to wear purple for Overdose Awareness Day to show their support.
More vigils are planned across the state.