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New Haven celebrates International Overdose Awareness Day

August 31 declared as Overdose Awareness Day in Connecticut and it was celebrated by more than 25 vendors, uplifting music and organizations.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — On one day in August of 2018, over 70 people overdosed on the New Haven Green. But on Tuesday, a much more positive light shed on addiction on the Green.

International Overdose Awareness Day was celebrated by more than 25 vendors, uplifting music and organizations that were created after the loss of loved ones, including 27-year-old Cameron Herr, who died in March of 2018.

RELATED: August 31 declared as Overdose Awareness Day in CT

"His goal was to once he learned how to live with his addiction in a healthy way, he wanted to help others like himself," said Isabelle Firine, Herr's sister and Co-Founder of For Cameron. " Unfortunately he relapsed, and he passed away."

Then, there's the story of multi-sport athlete Joe Deane, who died at 23, spawning Demand Zero.

"He died right here in New Haven of a pure fentanyl overdose," said his mother, Lisa Deane, who was among several on the Green to say destigmatizing addiction is a key to survival.

"When we people have stigma, they use alone and when they use alone, they die," said Phil Costello of the  Cornell Scott Health Center. "And so, the important is for people to not use alone."

He says it’s important family and friends need to make clear to those battling addiction that they can be honest with them.

"And that you can have the Narcan there so that you can keep them alive," said Costello, who has lost 12 patients this year to overdoses. 

The instances of opioid addiction and overdoses have increased steadily especially over the last year and a half.

"COVID-19 has exacerbated that situation," said Mayor Justin Elicker (D-New Haven). "People have felt isolated. There’s a lot of stress. Economic pressure. People don’t have that support network."

New Haven's Health Director, Maritza Bond, said, when data was compared from 2019 to 2021, there's been a 70% increase in overdoses citywide this year. 

So far, there's been over 400 overdoses treated in New Haven emergency rooms this year, according to Bond, who notes 73% of the victims have been males. 

RELATED: OxyContin maker's lawyer warns of long, expensive litigation

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