Local group honors lost loved ones for International Overdose Awareness Day

Local group honors lost loved ones for International Overdose Awareness Day

Heroin and opioids, they're drugs that are tearing apart every Michiana community. The issue has been deemed a public health crisis. Saturday, people gathered in Elkhart to bring attention to that epidemic.

It's part of International Overdose Awareness Day. People from all walks of life gathered at the Elkhart Civic Plaza to honor those who have died from overdoses.

At the corner of the event in the plaza, was a wall of names. It represents a loved one lost too soon to a drug overdose.

Alisia Hails struggles with addiction herself, and lost her sister to a heroin overdose in 2015.

"It makes you realize a lot, especially after you lose someone," she said. " What time you wish you utilized better and the things you wish you would’ve done and said, so now, it’s more important to be out here together as a family and to celebrate, even though it’s overdose awareness, to celebrate their lives."

Sam Callantine started the non-profit sponsoring the event. It's called Gweedo's Purple Shamrocks. It's a uniquely named organization to honor the memory of Callantine's brother, who died last summer from a heroin overdose.

"When we lose somebody to overdose, their lives are taken from us so quickly. It's unbelievable and it leaves a lot of people stunned," said Callantine.

Since then, the group has hosted free Narcan training sessions throughout the area.

"We want people to know that they're not alone. There are people dying, there are people suffering, families are suffering everyday and we want them to know that there is a community out there that cares," he said.

Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers said the epidemic affects all of us.

"You see this day in and day out. We see it on calls that we go on, people on the road of destruction," said Sheriff Rogers. "We make no apologies for putting someone in jail, particularly for drugs, because it sometimes will save their life."

The event focused on overdose awareness, but also where to go if you're struggling. In total, 8 resource centers attended. For many people, it was important to address the stigma around addiction.

"Nobody chooses to be an addict. It's not a choice. It's an illness. It's a disease," said Lisa Hails, who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose.

The event, represented a safe place to grieve for loved ones lost to the opioid crisis, and gave hope to those still fighting.

"There is a second chance and you can make it," said Alisia Hails.

At the conclusion of the night, leaders read a long list of names of people who have died, in our area, from overdoses.

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