Overdose Awareness Day spurs efforts to save lives
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 16:09
Illinois’ National Overdose Awareness Day serves to raise awareness for those lost to drug overdose. To recognize the day, the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy hosted a candlelight vigil on August 30 at Roosevelt University’s Schaumburg campus.
The vigil stressed the prevalence of accidental drug overdose, as a leading cause of death across the nation. It also included training for Naloxone, a drug used by paramedics to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose.
Chelsea Laliberte, a Roosevelt integrated marketing communications alumna, co-founded Live4Lali, an organization dedicated to drug overdose awareness and the preservation of youth activity involvement. Laliberte had a brother, Alex N. Laliberte, who died after a heroin overdose in 2008. The organization was formed and named after him.
“Everyone was very motivated on trying to combat this problem,” Laliberte said. “It feels like an uprising to me. There’s a surge of energy...when you’ve been through what many of us have with our loved ones, Overdose Awareness Day is every day.”
Officials with the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy said the vigil took all of August to plan.
“This wasn’t just about the vigil, though,” said Kathleen Kane-Willis, director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy. “We’re also honoring legislators who made efforts to make Naloxone more available, fundraising for Naloxone and giving out courage awards to individuals who were brave enough to come out and tell their personal stories and reduce the stigma around drug overdose.”
Officials said the vigil was held at the Schaumburg campus because suburbs are where the majority of drug overdoses occur. Laliberte said she would continue to remember her brother as a normal kid and use Live4Lali to raise awareness even after the event.
“We came from a respectful, loving and supportive family. As an introverted person, [Alex] wasn’t as open to discussing what was going on in his mind. He had a lot of pain,” she said.
Alex started smoking marijuana in eighth grade followed by a habit of using prescription pills, cocaine and eventually heroin. He died at age 20.
“It was a complete and utter shock,” Laliberte said. “My parents had no idea. They didn’t want to believe that their son, a very good kid, was getting involved with something they’d never do or approve of. He was still a very motivated student, with a 3.5 GPA. I don’t think drug use was something he wanted to be so involved with.”
Laliberte noted that people are just beginning to realize the availability and prevalence of heroin in suburban America and that after her brother’s death, her family started to learn more about drug usage.
“We realized we need to get the message out there that this can happen to anybody,” she said. “People need to be familiar with what’s out there and not be so scared and let the taboo side of drugs keep them from learning more.”
Roosevelt University will host the Lillian and Larry Goodman Award for Excellence in Drug Abuse Prevention awards ceremony and symposium on October 11.
“Imagine if you had the power to save lives, only you had no money to distribute the life-saving drug,” Kane-Willis said.