WILKES-BARRE — Area residents attended an event as well as a walk at Kirby Park on Sunday afternoon to raise awareness and remove the stigma from drug overdoses in Luzerne County.
Grief Recovery After Substance Passing or GRASP, a group that focuses on helping families who have lost a loved one to a substance death by honoring and remembering them, held its seventh annual Overdose Awareness Day with the hopes of raising awareness and education of the growing epidemic of drug addiction along with remembering the lives lost to addiction.
Carol Collbaugh, 67, who lost her son Erik to a drug overdose, has been the facilitator for GRASP meetings and helped organize Sunday’s event.
“We contacted all of our local resources,” said Coolbaugh. “The event was totally free. That’s why we owe a lot to our sponsors.”
The event had music, basket raffles, food and beverages, as well as games for children.
Coolbaugh said one of the biggest challenges her group faces is the fear that their deceased loved ones will be forgotten.
“People get caught up in some of the details about drug or substance overdoses,” she said. “We need to remove the stigma around this problem and have people whether it be survivors, families or officials talk about it openly and freely.
“Education and hosting more events will hopefully get rid of the stigma.”
Attendees looked at a photo table with pictures of deceased loved ones as well as 154 pin wheels that blew in the wind that represented all of the overdose fatalities in Luzerne County from 2017.
The various agencies on hand that have a direct line of helping fight substance abuse and drug overdoses did make an impact.
“This event has been very rewarding,” Coolbaigh added. “So far two people have come up to me and said that they were going to check in to rehab to recover from their addiction.
“Recovery can happen and does happen.”
Hundreds of people showed up to the event. Among them was Bryan Casterlin, 20, of Plains Township.
“My brother recently passes away from a heroine overdose,” said Casterlin. “I came to the event today to support my family and show that this is an important issue.”
Casterlin was proud of the turnout for the event especially the Walk to Remember.
“It’s really nice to see so many people attend this event,” he said. “As a walker, we raised awareness that drug addiction and overdoses are a treatable disease and that we shouldn’t push these people away.”
The event concluded with a balloon release, honoring by name, those who lost their life to addiction.
Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes