Dozens gather in honor of lost loved ones on Overdose Awareness Day

- Dozens gathered on International Overdose Awareness Day at a church in Fraser to honor loved ones who have lost their lives to addiction.

International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is a global event held on August 31 each year and aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. Some volunteers with Families Against Narcotics organized a vigil Thursday night at Christ Church in Fraser.

"There's options out there for people that are addicts. There's choices for them," says Terry Braden, a founder of Tomorrow A Better Day, a new support group in the area for those grieving a loved one lost to addiction. "Our hope is to give an alternative before they get to the point that they lose their lives."

This year, a free treatment program called Hope Not Handcuffs has become widely available in the tri-county area. Since its inception, hundreds of people have already been placed into treatment.

200 placed into treatment since launch of Hope Not Handcuffs

Hope Not Handcuffs gives addicts access to free treatment without giving them the fear of jail time. Anyone who is in need or want of help is asked to come to the participating police stations, where they will be welcomed with recovery support, no questions asked. A program volunteer, who refer to themselves as rehab angels, will then meet you at the police station. The angels help with everything from paperwork to transportation to various treatment centers.

Hope Not Handcuffs is available at all police stations in Macomb County, and at Ferndale, Oak Park and the Harper Woods departments. You can see a full list of participating agencies online here.

For families who have a loved one struggling with addiction, Families Against Narcotics is also offering Narcan training in Fraser on Tuesday, September 19. The class is free and lasts about an hour. Participants will also go home with a free dose after the training.

"To take it with you, and get it for free, it makes it available to save somebody's life," Braden says.

Narcan is a prescription medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose. If you'd like to sign up for the class, you can do so on FAN's website here.

Braden's support group, Tomorrow A Better Day, meets the first and third Thursday of every month at St. Ronald's Church on 15 Mile Road in Clinton Township. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. You can get more information on Tomorrow A Better Day here.

At Thursday's vigil in Fraser, the crowd laid out 144 purple flag's on the church's lawn to symbolize the 144 people that they say die daily due to overdose. After watching a video remembering their lost loved ones through family photographs, the crowd gathered among the flags and lit candles.

For more information on Families Against Narcotics and the resources they offer, visit www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org

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