SCHENECTADY — As the opioid epidemic continues to claim lives nationwide, a Schenectady advocacy group plans to honor those who have died.
A candlelight vigil, sponsored by Breaking Barriers advocacy group, will start at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Central Park Rose Garden. The event coincides with International Overdose Awareness Day and is intended to raise awareness about the opioid crisis.
“It’s for anybody who in any way is affected by the pandemic,” said James DeSantis, a founder of Breaking Barriers. “If you have a loved one, if you know a friend who died, if you just care about people’s lives or just want to see what Schenectady is trying to do to fight back.”
There will be speakers and a portion dedicated to honoring those who died from overdoses, DeSantis said. In addition, there will be training on how to use Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, which can be administered to reverse overdoses.
In 2016, Narcan was administered at least 275 times in Schenectady County, according to data from the state Department of Health.
The vigil has been in the works for about four months and was conceived as a way to bring the community together around the ongoing opioid epidemic while honoring those who lost their lives, DeSantis said.
He said he is hopeful Thursday’s vigil will spark a broader community dialogue around the issue of addiction, which he said affects nearly everybody.
The event falls on Aug. 31, which each year is International Overdose Awareness Day. Each year, forums and vigils are held globally as a way to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding addiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Earlier this year, city police estimated they respond to at least one overdose per week, though they acknowledged the problem has gotten worse in recent years. In light of the epidemic, local communities have implemented new methods to try and assist those fighting addiction, with varying results.
Breaking Barriers is one of a number of community groups focused on curbing the opioid epidemic locally. Made up of recovering addicts, the group meets every two weeks to discuss events and ways to improve support for others in recovery.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Candelight vigil for those lost to opioid addiction
WHERE: The rose garden at Schenectady’s Central Park
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday