NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — It's an epidemic that has touched thousands of Tennessee families. Now, people are coming together to mark "Overdose Awareness Day" in Nashville.
In The Nashville Recovery Center, families and friends gathered to remember loved ones they lost to drug addiction. This year's Overdose Awareness Day was sponsored by Addiction Services. Several speakers talked about remembering their loved ones and the need for more support and resources to combat the disease of addiction.
Saturday's event was a first for Ruthie Devereaux who lives in Clarksville.
"I lost my little sister Rachel Lynn last July 11, 2018 to an overdose related death," said Devereaux.
Rachel Lynn was just 27-years-old when she lost her battle to addiction.
"She always just kind of had this deep-down sadness, maybe misplaced feeling in her heart and in her life," said Devereaux.
The mother of two loved her kids but there was love she couldn't break free from and that was her addiction to heroin.
"Unfortunately, when somebody is addicted to a substance that strong and just addicted period there's not really a whole lot you can do," said Devereaux.
Devereaux says her sister started off with abusing pills, then it went to heroin, but when she died she had fentanyl.
August 31st is not just the kick off of Labor Day Weekend -- It's Overdose Awareness Day, and to these families it's so much more.
"To recognize and remember those we've loss."
It's an unwanted feeling Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry also knows all too well.
"My son Max passed away in 2017 and in that year, there were over 70,000 people who had an overdose and who died that year," said Barry
She was a guest speaker at the rally that aimed to spread awareness.
"We're now part of a club that no one wants to be a part of and that's what we have this room," Barry said.
Data from the CDC shows that drug overdose deaths in the U.S. fell in 2018 , the first such drop in decades. But a look at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that's not the case in Tennessee. Predicted overdose deaths rose to 1,939 in the state in 2018, that's p 4.8% from 2017. That includes more than 1,837 confirmed deaths. The rest remain currently unconfirmed by toxicology tests.
"We've lost more lives to overdose in the past year, then we lost in the Vietnam War in its entirety," said Mary-Linden Salter, Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and Other Addiction Services
The event, wasn't just about loss, Advocates said it was also about hope in preventing this from happening to other families and fighting for more resources.
"Today we're hoping to raise awareness so that there are no other families that have this tragedy," said Barry.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and need help here is a list of services in Tennessee from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.