Hundreds gathered in Stroudsburg on Wednesday evening to share their experiences and spread awareness about drug overdoses on International Overdose Awareness Day.
STROUDSBURG | Aug. 31, 2022, was International Overdose Awareness Day. Hundreds of concerned citizens gathered at the Wesleyan Church to spread awareness and show their support at the Overdose Awareness Memorial Drive. Some came to share experiences, either their own or with someone they care for who has personally dealt with addiction. Others came out to honor loved ones lost. And others came out to learn more about what they can do to prevent these unnecessary losses from occurring in the future.
The event was organized by Deborah Hartley of Ray of Hope For Addiction to honor those who have been lost to accidental overdose or struggle with opioid addiction. Hartley lost her 34-year-old son, Ray, to an overdose in 2017. Several area nonprofits set up tables offering resources and handing out the life-saving overdose medication naloxone before a 2-mile memorial drive and a candlelight vigil. Several high-profile officials were in attendance. WATCH VIDEO.
“All across the world, over 20 nations are joining together on Aug. 31 every year to raise awareness about overdose deaths and to honor the people who have been lost that way,” said Hartley. “Because many of us have lost loved ones, and too many of us suffer in silence because the stigma involved in addiction or even overdose death is an additional pain that people have to deal with.”
“Much of the struggles that people with addiction have is really routed in the stigma that is surrounding addiction. And many of the people either resist treatment or hide from letting their family members know that they’re struggling,” said Hartley. “Even when the family members do know, they try to keep it hush. They don’t get them into help or get them into treatment for help. So, the stigma of addiction is a very part of the problem with the continuing overdose deaths here in our nation and around the world.”
“We are grateful to collaborate with Rays of Hope For Addiction and the other organizations that were here tonight to bring support for people,” said Pastor Linda Keefer of the Wesleyan Church. “To pray for people, let people know that they are loved, to let people know that we don’t judge them, that everyone is welcome here, and also just to hug people who have lost someone.”
“There’s no shame. There are many people who will love you, embrace you. You have a God who created you and loves you,” said Keefer. “Reach out. Get help. Come to a church. Come here. Reach out to Rays of Hope. Reach out. There’s people out there who will embrace you and help you take the journey. Don’t do it alone. Don’t isolate. There’s hope for you.”
The Carbon Monroe Pike Drug and Alcohol Commission offers programs for anyone struggling with addiction and will provide treatment regardless of whether insurance will cover it.