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International Overdose Awareness Day, 8/31/2017

Remembering the thousands we have lost to addiction

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Remembering the thousands we have lost to addiction

International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held every Aug. 31 to raise awareness about overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths.

The opioid and heroin epidemic has claimed thousands, with nearly 35,000 people across the country losing their battle with addiction to heroin, fentanyl, prescription medications and imported substances in 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Record numbers of deaths have been recorded in many states, including New Jersey. Addiction took the lives of 1,587 state residents in 2015, and officials say those numbers are climbing higher every year.

Drug-related overdoses in South Jersey counties included 85 in Atlantic, 32 in Cape May, 38 in Cumberland and 157 in Ocean in 2015.

Statistics can help researchers and public health officials determine the scope of an epidemic, but they don’t show the depth of loss families and friends experience when they lose someone to an overdose.

The Press asked readers and communities to send us photographs and messages about loved ones lost to the heroin/opioid epidemic — and the response was overwhelming.

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Katelyn Marie Elwell

Katelyn Marie Elwell, 18, of Mays Landing “She was a loving friend to everyone she met and had an infectious laugh.” -Susan Elwell, her mother

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Christian McCarthy

Christian McCarthy, 45, of Millville

Graduated from The College of New Jersey with honors and Widner Law School. Died Aug. 18, 2015 of a heroin overdose. Missed very much by his family.

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Josanna Feldman-Smith

Josanna Feldman-Smith, 34, of Galloway Township

"With a hole in are hearts that that will never heal.Love always, Dad." -George Smith, her father

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Fred Taylor

Fred Taylor, 46, of Haddon Heights

Unfortunately passed away on Aug, 21 due to heroin. He did save one life by donating his organs.

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Hailey Gabrielle Jones

Hailey Gabrielle Jones, 19, of the Smithville section of Galloway Township Passed away Aug. 13, 2014. Hailey was a beautiful, vibrant girl whose smile and infectious laugh could light up any room. “I miss her more every long day...”

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Beau Michael Reilly

Beau Michael Reilly, 21, of Egg Harbor Township

Always in our hearts.

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Ryan B. Beard

Ryan B. Beard, 29, of Point Pleasant

Beloved son and grandson 

Rutgers University Graduate

Outstanding baseball player and beloved coach

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Jesse Flynn

Jesse Flynn, 22, of Sayreville

"Our son Jesse passed away from a heroin overdose on May 29, 2016. He left behind a daughter only 8 months old and a family who loved him deeply. He was kind, witty and full of dreams! If he had a choice he wouldn't have chose this disease. He had too much to live for!" -Linda Flynn, his mother

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Daniel T. Michael

Daniel T. Michael, 30, of the Pomona section of Galloway Township 5-19-86 to 6-21-16

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Matthew Mason

Matthew Mason, 24, of Egg Harbor Township

Mason died three years ago from an overdose.

"There is not one day that goes by that my heart does not ache to just hug him one more time! I love and miss you so much!" -Theresa Allmond-Mason, his mother

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Thomas John Latham

Thomas John Latham, 24, of Hamilton Township “You are always and forever in our hearts. Your light will always shine! Shine on Tom! We love you!!” -his parents

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Mark Aishton

Mark Aishton, 33, of Galloway Township “The world will never know what these young men could have accomplished. It is not just our loss but the country’s as well.” -Marilyn Aishton, his mother

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Timothy F. Milam

Timothy F. Milam, 31, of Vineland

January 14, 1984 – October 24, 2015

“There's always gonna be another mountain

I'm always gonna wanna make it move

Always gonna be an uphill battle

Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there

Ain't about what's waiting on the other side

It's the climb”

Love, Mom and Dad, sisters, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews

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Dan Miller

Dan Miller, 27, of Mays Landing “Dan passed 6 years ago due to a drug overdose. Our family looks forward to the day God reunites us all.” -Dave Miller, his father.

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George John Lees

George John Lees, 33, of Galloway Dec. 8, 1982 to April 12, 2016 One month from his masters. He was dedicated to higher education and he loved his son with all his heart.

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Harry F. Snyder

Harry F. Snyder, 25, of Marmora “He was dearly loved and will be forever missed and grieved.” -Maureen and John Snyder, his parents

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Melissa A. Endicott

Melissa A. Endicott, 31, of Absecon 01/14/1986 — 07/02/2017  "She was full of life, ambitious, and had the biggest heart. My sister was more than her addiction and I always want her to be remembered for the beautiful soul she was. Rest peacefully my guardian angel." -Amanda Endicott, her sister

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Brandon D. Cooper

Brandon D. Cooper, 29, Villas section of Lower Township A quote comes to mind: “Goodbyes hurt the most, when the story was not finished...” It's up to us, your family and friends, to share your story and keep your memory alive. By raising awareness of this growing epidemic, hopefully we will reduce the stigma surrounding addiction and will help someone regain control of their life. We will continue to share your story, your memory will live on and your death will not be for nothing, we promise you.

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Michael Hesselbach Jr.

Michael Hesselbach Jr., 20

2/24/96-9/9/16

Died from a heroin, fentanyl overdose

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Tyler Jay Onesty

Tyler Jay Onesty, 22, of Ocean City 9/27/94-3/07/17 Loved and respected by many! His story is already saving others as he tried to do till the end of his battle with addiction.

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Dylan Amodio

Dylan Amodio, 24, of West Collingswood Heights

1/17/93-6/1/17

Overdosed on heroin.

"Son, brother, nephew, uncle, step-son, grandson and friend.  Thank you. I don't want him ever be forgotten." -Jane Pinos, his mother

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Briana DeSalis

Briana DeSalis, 22, of Philadelphia

She was originally from Mays Landing.

"Lost my angel 02/17. Love and miss her." -Timothy DeSalis

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Alexander K. Platt

Alexander K. Platt, 24, of Cream Ridge

7/3/1991 - 12/5/2015

Forever 24, loved and missed beyond measure. Our lives are forever changed without you here with us.

He fought hard started with alcohol in middle school and escalated to heroin. 13 plus rehabs, 2 sober living, 11 overdoses. Maximum time clean and sober was approx. 3 years, 8 months. Related and gone in less than a year.

This disease needs to stop!

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Ashley Gitto

Ashley Gitto, 25, of Washington “We will love you and miss you FOREVER 💔” -Matt, Kathy & Courtney Gitto

Click the icon above to read more about each victim

A 16-year-old daughter from Hammonton continues to grieve the loss of her best friend, her father. A Hammonton mother becomes the sole provider for her family after the loss of her fiance. Parents in Mays Landing started an organization in honor of the son they lost to addiction. An infant child in Egg Harbor Township will grow up without his mother. A man holds on to the memories of the brother from Atlantic City he lost.

They may be gone, but their family and friends continue to keep their memories alive and work toward eliminating the stigma that creates barriers to treatment and support.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015. Stigma is one of the largest barriers to people receiving treatment for addiction. Organizing as a community to remember those we have lost will help break down this barrier. 

IF YOU GO:

MILLVILLE: Cumberland County is holding its first local International Overdose Awareness and Remembrance event from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds, 3001 Carmel Road, Millville. Families and friends are invited to remember their loved ones and raise awareness in the community.

VENTNOR: Two free Narcan training sessions will be held at 2 and 4 p.m. at the Ventnor Community Library, followed by a remembrance event on the beach from 6 to 8 p.m. behind the Ventnor Community Library on Newport Avenue. Pre-registration is not required for the Narcan trainings, however, there is a maximum of 25 people per session. Organizers ask that you wear white to the remembrance event on the beach to signify hope for others. Attendees should bring a beach chair or blanket. The event will be held in the community center or library if it rains. For more information, call Tracy Smith at 609-445-5121. If you would like to have your loved one commemorated at this event email information to staff@speakersforchange.org.

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Contact: 609-272-7022

NLeonard@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressNLeonard​

Previously interned and reported for Boston.com, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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