SHARON, Pennsylvania (WKBN) – The U.S. averages 110 legal and illegal drug overdose deaths every day.
Pennsylvania and Ohio rank among the 20 states that have a statistically higher rate of fatal overdoses than the national average.
The Mercer County Drug Awareness Coalition held a meeting Sunday night at St. Bartholomew Church, aimed to combat addiction and drug overdose deaths.
Three speakers whose lives were directly affected by heroin talked to the public about the deadly epidemic in the area. The commissioner and coroner also attended. And, the man who helped organize the event is a recovering addict.
“There is help out there for those that are struggling,” said Gloria Mackaly, one of the meeting’s organizers from the coalition. “Like so many families in this valley, ours was touched by drug addiction. I have six grandchildren, and I want a better life for them out there.”
Opioids, including prescription pain relievers, and heroin killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, which is more than any year on record. But, medical professionals say 2016 is already shaping up to be the deadliest on record. That’s why the organizers of the meeting felt so strongly about get the word out to local residents.
“My youngest son became involved with illegal drugs, moved from marijuana, to oxycotton, to heroin. That led to various crimes. Right now he is in the Mercer County State Correctional Institution,” said Certified Recovery Specialist Dan Bailey.
Sunday’s meeting was an outlet for those struggling to understand addiction.
“Awareness, education, prevention. I think it’s very important for parents to educate themselves on this disease of addiction. And it is a disease,” Bailey said.
But more than anything, organizers hoped to break the stigma surrounding drug addiction and overdose deaths, while also offering a safe haven for those seeking recovery.
“Everybody needs to stand up and talk about this a little more, because otherwise the message isn’t going to get out there and people won’t be educated about this disease,” said Brain Davis, another meeting organizer from the coalition.
Many of the speakers talked about how their lives have changed while they loved someone through their addiction. But overall, their message was one of hope and recovery.
“Too many people turn their backs, they’re embarrassed by it. And that’s why there’s a need for us to be here today. To try to get the word out in Mercer County and also in this whole valley. It is such an important issue,” said Celeste Muenz, owner of the Gypsy House Sober Living Facility.