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Awareness must continue to fight addictions

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Overdose deaths continue to plague our society, and the efforts of local residents to raise awareness of this issue are welcome.

International Overdose Awareness Day was held on August 31 and there was a vigil at Lakeview Terrace in Lakeview Park in Lorain where people heard heartbreaking stories of drug addiction.

Yes, it has been a tough day in such a tough year with people telling stories of what overdoses have done to their loved ones.

However, overdose survivors and the families of those who have died have joined a global movement to watch it make this world a better place.

International Overdose Awareness Day takes place on August 31 each year to raise awareness of overdose, reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths and recognize the grief felt by families and friends

This year’s Lorain County celebration included a candlelight vigil and a shoe exhibit commemorating those who followed the path of drug addiction and died. Service providers were also present.

Families of those lost to the opioid epidemic and survivors who have found solace in recovery shared their respective journeys in search of answers.

Speakers at the vigil called on the community to come together to help address this addiction problem.

Lorain County Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services Board joined by other Lorain County Opioid Action Team partners in memory of 138 Lorain County residents who died following an accidental drug overdose in 2020.

That’s 138 too many lives lost.

Julie Smith spoke about her son Taylor Havanchak, who died at the age of 20 of an overdose after battling an opioid addiction for eight years.

After being prescribed prescription pain relievers in a car accident, Smith said Havanchak has lost a lot in those eight years.

Smith’s family desperately tried to help Havanchak in any way they could.

But, they learned that the person with an addiction problem must want to get help, they must do it for themselves.

Smith’s family will forever mourn the death of Havanchak and the difficult times he went through.

She prays that people can work together to help end the opioid epidemic that is tearing families apart and urged those struggling to seek help.

We agree with Smith that if you know someone who has an addiction, show them grace and mercy.

Drug addicts are suffering, they need help and they need to be relieved.

Another speaker was Stephanie Stammitti, who called the death of her 21-year-old son Kyle Miller in 2013 as the worst day of her life.

Miller was injured in a wrestling accident that required a prescription for pain relievers.

In three years, Stammitti saw his son go from a healthy bodybuilder to a true addiction to opioids.

A long-term recovery herself, Stammitti said it was a week after her son was released from treatment that she received the phone call indicating he had passed away.

In the overwhelming emotional uproar, Stammitti relied on the support system she had developed in 12 years of sobriety.

Stammitti had the support of her group Alcoholics Anonymous and people she didn’t even know who had been through the same thing.

She said if she can talk to someone, if she can help someone, if she can let them know what she’s been through, she will be there for him.

It is the compassion that people really need to help addicts.

Recalling his anger against God after the death of his son, Stammitti acknowledged that it was the recovery resources and support systems available to families and those still struggling that got him through.

Then she encouraged others on a similar journey to ask for help.

Kim Eberle, founder of Let’s Get Real Inc., a non-profit community recovery organization based in Lorain, said with the number of overdose deaths in Lorain County on the rise again, it is critical the community have difficult conversations with those who are addicted or at risk.

Eberle added that the only way to fight addiction is to speak up, not to be ashamed to speak up, no matter who is in pain, to be open-minded and to educate everyone around us, including including those still suffering from addiction.

The heart-wrenching stories and testimonies people gave on August 31 are stark reminders of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to drug addiction.

Today is also a reminder of how far we have come in the fight against drug addiction across America.

We still have a long way to go to overcome this opioid pandemic.

But events like International Overdose Awareness Day are helping the cause.