Saturday, December 17, 2016

Candlelight Vigil Held in Memory of Those Lost to Drug Overdoses

75 people share stories of addiction, recovery, hope, and policy change

(Eliot, Maine) Despite the bitter cold, more than 75 people gathered at a local church Friday evening for a candlelight vigil to pay tribute to the hundreds of Mainers who’ve lost their lives to drug overdoses in recent years.  Hosted by a local group called Out of the Shadows, the event was somber at times and uplifting at others as community members grieved the loss of family and friends but also expressed optimism that change was coming in the form of better education, more funding for treatment from Congress, and a gradual breaking down of the stigma and shame that accompanies substance use disorders.

Kristina Goodwin, a lifelong Eliot resident, lost her brother to a heroin overdose.  Turning their grief into action, Goodwin’s family helped create Out of the Shadows to raise awareness and support people in recovery as well as their families.

"One of the most powerful things I hope we all take from this vigil and imbed into our communities is that people can and do recover. We need to unite together as a community, remember those we have lost to this disease, work together to reduce stigma, and help support individuals and their families who are traveling the many pathways to recovery. This disease impacts all of us, which is why we need to come together as families, friends, neighbors, and first responders to create a supportive and productive recovery community.”

The recently released report from U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, “Facing Addiction in America,” shows that overdoses have killed more than 500,000 Americans since 2000.  In 2015 substance-abuse disorders affected 20.8 million people in the United States – as many as those with diabetes and one and a half times as many as those with cancer - but only one in 10 people receives treatment.

The Surgeon General’s report presents evidence that addiction is a treatable brain disease and that it poses a threat equal to smoking, AIDS, and other public health crises of the past half-century.  Murthy has called the current epidemic “a moral test for America.”

Dr. Patty Hymanson, a State Representative from the town of York, remarked, “The sadness, sense of tragedy and questions I hear from people I speak to about the scourge of opiate use underscore the urgency with which we all must engage in solutions. While prevention, interdiction, treatment and recovery all need additional effort, I will be fighting hardest this legislative session to improve access to medication-assisted treatment so those already in the grip of opiate addiction can get the help they need to recover.”

According to data recently released by the Maine Attorney General, one person a day is dying from a drug overdose in Maine.  In the first nine months of 2016 the total number of deaths statewide had reached 286 - surpassing the total of 272 overdose deaths for all of 2015.

Friday’s event included music, locally-donated food, and a memorial to those who have passed away.  Speakers shared stories of addiction, recovery, hope, and policy changes being pursued in Maine and Washington.  Local support resources were also available at the event for anyone interested.

Out of the Shadows works to support families, friends, and people in recovery by shining a light on the struggles of substance use and addiction.  Their hope is to reduce the stigma and bias surrounding the disease and help their community come together to find solutions to this growing epidemic.



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