ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — People all over the globe recognized International Overdose Awareness Day on Wednesday.
It is held each year to bring attention to overdoses, reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths and acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends. The Rockton River Market had a special memorial in recognition of the day.
Organizers said that the colors they used for the memorial are coded for national, state and county numbers, reflecting the lives lost to overdose in the last year.
“We are here tonight on August 31 because it is International Overdose Awareness Day,” said Beverly Pomering, executive director of the Live R.E.A.L. Foundation.
Wednesday was the last night of the Rockton River Market, so Pomering figured it would be a great opportunity to add some vendors to the lineup. She rallied local mental health and recovery agencies to educate the public on the reality of opioids in the community.
“In Winnebago County, 164 have passed away from an accidental drug overdose in the last 12 months, and that is just a fraction of the number of people who died in the United States,” Pomering said. “In 2021, it was over 107,000 people [who] died from a drug overdose.”
For Pomering, these are not just statistics, but her reality.
“Three years ago this weekend, I lost my son Alex, four weeks before his 21st birthday,” Pomering said.
She said that learning her son died from fentanyl poisoning was shocking.
“We did not know he had an opioid addiction,” Pomering said. “He held a job, he ate dinner with us every night, he was well-liked, he bought a car, held a job. Like, it wasn’t your stereotypical addict, and that is one thing that I have learned since that. There is no such thing.”
Pomering stressed that people do not have to be an addict to be at risk of overdosing. All it takes is one time.