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Nashville families find hope and healing on International Overdose Awareness Day

International Overdose Awareness Day
Posted at 9:50 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 23:48:12-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — As the country is fighting the COVID-19 virus, there’s a community shining a light on another deadly disease: overdoses.

Monday, Aug. 31 was international Overdose Day, and the Nashville Recovery Center honored the many lives lost due to drug overdose.

One by one the names of non-forgotten are read aloud - names of mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters who have been taken by an overdose.

Families and friends gathered and shared stories at the Nashville Recovery Center on International Overdose Day to remember their loved ones but to also break a stigma.

"This is a group of people that I love but our bond I wish we didn’t have," said former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.

She knows this first hand.

"Max, my son died in 2017, over 70,000 people died that year. We’re on track to hit that number and more," she said.

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse says, sadly the state’s overall number of deadly overdoses continues to rise. And COVID-19 hasn’t made things easier.

"It’s very troubling. And I think with the pandemic and COVID, the isolation really plays into this. In the beginning, there were a lot of things shut down and that included things like services where people could go for support," said Barry.

There were nearly 2,100 Tennesseans who died from drug overdoses in 2019, a 15 percent increase from 2018.

Barry says there is hope and it starts with people recognizing addiction as a disease and breaking the stigma.

"If we can get passed it we can get to hope, treatment and long term recovery."

She encourages everyone to write their lawmakers about allocating more money for mental health services. Barry is also asking people to be trained in using Narcan spray - an overdose drug used by emergency responders and doctors.