Second Action Drug Overdose Awareness Candlelight Vigil Lights Friday
Event Provides Santa Clarita Valley Residents a Time to Share in Mourning the Loss of Loved Ones to Drug Overdoses
The nonprofit Action Family Foundation will hold its second annual Action Overdose Awareness Day candlelight vigil Friday night, in remembrance of Santa Clarita Valley teens and young adults who have died of drug overdoses in recent years.
The vigil starts at 6 p.m. at the Action Family Zone, 20655 Soledad Canyon Road, Suite 24 (Soledad and Ruether Avenue), in Santa Clarita 91350.
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“It’s a chance to honor the loved ones left behind,” said event host Cary Quashen, head of the Action Family Counseling drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation centers. The nationally recognized substance abuse counselor is also founder of the nonprofit Action Family Foundation, which operates “The Zone.”
“It’s a vigil so we can remember the loved ones we have lost because of substance abuse and the disease of addiction, and even more, it’s to support their families,” he said.
Everyone is Invited to the Action Candlelight Vigil
Quashen invites anyone who’s lost a relative or friend to a drug overdose, anyone who’s addicted now and needs help, anyone who’s in recovery and could use a little support, and everyone else, to attend Friday night’s vigil.
“We’d like participants to bring pictures of lost loved ones, (silver) ribbons and, most important, your stories,” he said. “This is an opportunity to raise awareness about the heroin and prescription pill epidemic in the Santa Clarita Valley. It’s a chance to meet others affected by the loss of a loved one to an overdose and advocate for lifesaving solutions.”
Speakers Friday night will include Quashen; Bob Sharits, Action’s program director; and Krissy McAfee, whose son Trae died of a heroin overdose in March 2010.
McAfee unfortunately became an expert on the topic of losing a child to drugs. She now speaks frequently at public events such as this, hoping to console other parents in similar predicaments, and encourage young addicts to get help through Action or some other proven effective way.
“We can hear Krissy’s story and the stories from impacted family and friends, and honor them for displaying the courage to publicly share their personal experiences,” Quashen said.
“Last year we had almost 200 people (at the first candlelight vigil), people who lost their loved ones to substance abuse and who substance abuse had affected in a bad way,” he said. “It’s super important to come this year. What a great teaching and learning experience it will be for families. Nobody wants to miss this.”
Since 2013’s International Overdose Awareness Day falls on Labor Day weekend in the United States, Action holds its vigil earlier to allow more families to attend, and to free up Labor Day weekend for family fun, Quashen said.
International Overdose Awareness Day started in Australia in 2001, created by a compassionate Salvation Army nurse. She worked with addicts who were often in mourning for friends who had died by overdose. This moved her to create International Overdose Awareness Day to provide people around the world an opportunity to mourn those who have died from overdoses, without guilt or shame.
The Action candlelight vigil also precedes the third annual “Heroin Kills: The High is a Lie” symposium at the Santa Clarita Activities Center Wednesday, Aug. 28, hosted by the City of Santa Clarita in cooperation with the Hart school district, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, and Action.
Drug Overdoses Now the Leading Cause of Death of People 25-64
According to the latest figures (2010) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the third year in a row, unintentional poisoning, which is more than 90 percent accidental drug overdoses, was the No. 1 cause of death of U.S. residents ages 25-64, followed by traffic collisions.
Among Americans ages 15-24, the top three causes of death were traffic collisions, homicide by firearm, and unintentional poisoning (mostly drug overdoses).
Overdose deaths in the U.S. have increased for 11 successive years. The CDC reports opiate-based pill overdoses have claimed 125,000 U.S. lives in the last decade.
Three More Deaths from Suspected Overdoses in the SCV This Summer
In the Santa Clarita Valley, there were five deaths from heroin or opiated pill overdoses in 2011, according to statistics from Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station detective Bob Wachsmuth, who heads the station’s Juvenile Intervention Team.
In 2012, as an alarmed community came to grips with its heroin and pill problem, the number of drug overdose deaths spiked to 14.
In the first half of 2013, there were only two fatal overdoses confirmed by Wachsmuth, both from prescription pills.
On Tuesday, he said three more local residents had died from suspected overdoses over the summer. “We can’t confirm those as overdoses yet – we’re waiting for toxicology results,” he said. “But we’re pretty sure about them. One of the (dead) was a heroin addict.”
“Substance abuse is a disease that can affect anybody at any time and it’s something that we want to make sure we’re on top of,” Quashen said.
“I just want to remind everybody that there aren’t any bad people, there aren’t any bad kids,” he said. “The kids that we lost to substance abuse were great kids. They made bad choices. Together we can help kids make better choices.”
For more information, call the Action Family Zone at 661-467-2714 or visit the Action Family Foundation Presents Candlelight Vigil event page on Facebook.
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