By Naiya Brooks, Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News)- Margie Baxter is just one of many parents that lost a child to an opioid overdose. Her daughter, Erica, died in 2016…two weeks after overdosing. This is one of the reasons Margie decided to participate in H.E.A.L Onondaga’s 2nd Annual Heroin Awareness Walk with her granddaughter by her side and a poster with a picture of Erica and the quote “1 out of 62,000” in her hands. The other reason was to raise awareness and end the stigma of friends and family struggling with addiction.
Margie explained that she “… was always very open. Erica struggled with addiction for eight years before she died and I never hid it from my family, from my friends, from my co-workers, everybody knew.” And that “they don’t want to be addicts, when you make them feel bad, they feel worse about themselves.”
The walk began at City Hall with a few words from Kevin Donovan, a H.E.A.L board member and recovering addict himself, explaining how they “want to do everything we can to make addiction, addictive disorders just like any other disease.”
Walkers continued downtown to Clinton Square where H.E.A.L Founder Michaline Younis gave a short speech about losing her child’s father to a fentanyl overdose and struggling with having a brother addicted to drugs.
“I share this with you in an attempt to break the stigma that this epidemic, this addiction, this disease should be kept a secret,” said Younis. “This county in 2016, we had the highest rate of overdoses out of all the other surrounding counties and in 2019 we have all of you here with signs, Facebook posts talking about your long battles that you struggles with and people coming forward and speaking.”
Onondaga County saw a significant increase in overdose deaths going from 78 in 2015 to 142 in 2016. Overdose deaths in the county dropped to 101 last year. Measures such as Narcan training, more treatment options, and extensive prevention methods and campaigns became necessary to save lives.