DPC and others come together to honor and remember drug overdose survivors and victims

September 4, 2022
By: Dwayne Page

As part of September National Recovery Month, the DeKalb Prevention Coalition marked International Overdose Awareness Day on Thursday with an event that honored those who died of drug overdoses and provided resources for those who struggle with drug addiction.

The event, held on the west side of the courthouse, ended with a moment of silence as attendees held hands around a tree decorated with purple ribbons placed there in memory of sentient beings. loved ones lost to an overdose.

“Our mission is to eliminate overdoses, remove the stigma associated with substance use disorders, and ensure that every patient has access and support through the recovery process,” said Jennifer Matthews, director of the DeKalb County Prevention Coalition.

The ceremony included entertainment, food, as well as remarks from County Mayor Matt Adcock, General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Brandon Cox, as well as Will Taylor, Faith-Based Community Coordinator for Central Tennessee and Justin Cantrell, Regional Overdose Prevention Specialist.

“I challenge you all today to pay tribute to the lives lost, but to recover out loud, to share your story because there is nothing to be ashamed of,” Will Taylor said.

Justin Cantrell, a recovering drug addict and guest speaker for Thursday night’s show, says his life has changed completely.

“My life before was unmanageable. Court dates, jail and rehab twelve different times. I was miserable and my family and all the relationships in my life were destroyed. I didn’t have a job and I was broke, homeless, broke and disgusted and didn’t want to face reality, but I had to fully admit that I had a problem and was powerless over it. The disease of addiction. It was only then that my life began to change through a 12-step recovery program, and I committed my will and my life to God and received a spiritual awakening,” Cantrell said.

The family of the late Christie Mullican also displayed a purple chair with sparkles called “Christie’s Chair” in honor of their loved one who died of an overdose in 2005 and in memory of others who have lost the battle with addiction.

“At first we decided to do the chair in memory of my sister Christie, but then we came to do it for overdose awareness. Each spark on this chair represents a life lost due to an overdose. It’s called Christie’s Chair. We also have a poster for survivors,” said Amanda Parsley.

A Christie memorial poem titled “My Empty Chair”, written by Parsley and Melissa Randall, was read at the event by Isaac Pinegar. “Don’t take my chair. Leave him. My chair here is empty in memory of me. I am under the protection of God. With every spark on my chair, remember the love we share. I have earned my wings. You won my vote. Please tell the world that I made the wrong choice. Overdose awareness August 31st. Overdose is preventable.

“We need to spread this message so that people are aware of the seriousness of drugs. You can use for the first time or for the last time and for many people it is the last time. If you’re alive, at least you still have a choice,” Parsley said.

Part of the event included training on how to administer naloxone, a drug that can save the life of someone who has overdosed. Suzanne Angel, Regional Overdose Prevention Specialist for Region 3 Upstate Tennessee, facilitated the training.

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