International Overdose Awareness Day observed in Manistee

MANISTEE — Awareness about a growing national problem came to Manistee on Thursday evening.

Cyndi Jacobi who lost a son to a prescription drug overdose prepares to toss a purple carnation into the Manistee River Channel in his memory at Thursday's International Overdose Awareness Day ceremony at the Manistee Jaycee Bandshell.

Cyndi Jacobi who lost a son to a prescription drug overdose prepares to toss a purple carnation into the Manistee River Channel in his memory at Thursday’s International Overdose Awareness Day ceremony at the Manistee Jaycee Bandshell.

Manistee County area agencies and families gathered on the shores of the Manistee River Channel at the Manistee Jaycees Bandshell to take part in a very emotional International Overdose Awareness Day ceremony.

Opiod addiction to prescription drugs is at epidemic proportions throughout the country and world. Organizers of this event wanted to join others  in bringing attention to this crisis and the need to address the problem.

Thursday’s event included music, a prayer service and a flower release. The flower release was a very moving part of the ceremony. Those who wanted to remember someone lost to an addiction were presented a purple carnation that they released into the Manistee River Channel. Overdose Awareness color is purple and the carnations were donated by Gloria’s Floral Garden for the occasion.

Cyndi Jacobi served as chairperson of the local event. She and her husband, Dick, lost a son to addiction when he overdosed after taking legitimate prescription medication for a back injury. She said acknowledgement of the problem is long overdue.

“It’s been a crisis for a very long time and just this past week more recent numbers came out that 195 people a day are dying and by 2020 they are projecting 250 a day being lost to this epidemic,” said Jacobi.

She said it is something that really hits home with her family.

“We lost our 25-year-old son nine years ago, as he was way over prescribed prescription medication,” said Jacobi.

The service is something that Jacobi said she hoped would bring peace to those who lost someone.

“I hope it will be a healing event for some people and I hope it will raise awareness that we need to do something because we are losing too many people. It is hitting every age and every social economical group. It is a tragedy and I don’t know what the answer is, but we all need to come together and work against this.”

One of the speakers at the event was Manistee County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Hauswirth who said through his position he has come to understand the magnitude of the problem.

“Unlike you, I have been on the enforcement side of the opioid crisis and I know that is a very personal thing for many of you out there today,” said Hauswirth. “It has gotten personal for me just seeing what it has done.”

Hauswirth said the problem has grown since the 1990s.

“Six hundred and twenty four is the number of people that were killed by a homicide in the State of Michigan in 2016,” said Hauswirth. “The second number is 1,364 which is the number of people who took their own life in 2016 in Michigan. The third number 1,791 which is the number of people dying from kidney failure in Michigan in 2016. The fourth number is 2,347 which is the number of people who died of an overdose in 2016 in Michigan. More than homicides and suicides combined.”

Hauswirth said that is something the law enforcement community has failed to grasp.

Also speaking was Little River Band of Ottawa Indian member Ron Wittenberg who offered a prayer and a story of his own of losing someone to addiction. He touched on the pain and sorrow it brings to those who have lost someone.

Theo Batzer provided music and a religious service. His moving renditions of “Country Roads Take Me Home,” Go Rest High on that Mountain” and “Amazing Grace” brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance who were there honoring the memory of those that were lost.

“I gather that each of here have been affected by opioids in our community in some way whether it is in the law enforcement community or someone dear to your heart who has passed on or is recovering, or ovcame an affliction,” said Batzer. “No matter what the situation it seems we all have people in our lives who face that demon.”

Jordan Jacobi who lost his brother also read the meaning of the carnations in the water.

“These flowers we hold, in memory of our loved ones, were once sees, nourished by the rain,” he said. “We now place them in the water, returning them to what gave them life. Let them float away, to be carried by the waves.”

Manistee County Human Services Collaborative Body coordinator Judy Crockett said help is available locally to connect people needing those services. She said their agency along with Manistee Substance Education and Awareness (SEA), Be Da Bin Behaviorial Health, Centra Wellness Network and the MSU Extension Office are all in this fight to stop addiction.

Thursday’s program also included The Overdose Awareness Memorial Float, which was on display in the parking lot above the bandshell. It is a float that was covered with prescription bottles and inside each one was the names of those who died as a result of an overdose. People attending the event were offered the opportunity to remember a friend, family member or loved one by adding their name to a bottle.

More information on the opioid epidemic can be found at the Center for Disease Control’s website, cdc.gov. Information can also be four at michigan.gov/mdhhs and samhsa.gov

 

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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