GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – There are quite a few trees in Glens Falls’ City Park, but one alongside Maple Street is special.
On Tuesday afternoon, anyone who took the time to stop and ask could find out why.
An annual remembrance ceremony was held in the park on Tuesday, meant to provide a message of hope, even as new names are added to a list of locals who have died from overdose. It also coincides with the national recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day.
Around a dozen area residents came to hang glass angels or small metal hearts, which they could write the name of a loved one on to keep their memory alive.
The ceremony was one of two on Tuesday evening in the area, with nearby Hudson Falls hosting Narcan training and a candlelight vigil, starting at 6 p.m. in Juckett Park.
Visitors hung hearts and angels for relatives, friends, and others. Some simply stood in solidarity.
The effect that an overdose can have on an individual, a family and a community isn’t lost on Ashley Livingston, co-chair of Friends of Recovery of Warren and Washington Counties.
In September, Livingston will celebrate eight years since her own near-fatal overdose. She was found by her mother after overdosing on perscribed medication.
As she tells it now, doctors told Livingston she should have died, or suffered brain damage at the very least.
“But I’m here.”
The years since have been about giving her life a new purpose through advocacy and outreach.
“I’ve lost a lot of friends to overdose, Livingston says, “and so I keep trying to raise awareness and try to hope.”
One thing that Livingston wants people to come away knowing is that overdose deaths are preventable. In her own case, her mother administered Narcan, the same overdose reversal drug that visitors were getting trained to use outside City Park on Tuesday.
The drug restores normal respiration quickly, and can be acquired in either injection or nasal forms.
A large part of what turns awareness into action, Livingston says, is having something tangible that people can hold in their hands and know they can use to save a life.
On Tuesday, she offered Narcan training for anyone wanting to learn the skill that can reverse an overdose and save a life.
Another reason events like this are so important to Livingston comes down to humanizing addicts.
“When we stop treating people who use drugs like dirt on the bottom of our shoe, and love them unconditionally, and help them towards a better life despite their willingness to use drugs, I think the world would be a better place,” she said.
Livingston said that she definitely sees the COVID-19 pandemic as having had a worsening effect on drug use and overdoses in the area; a sentiment echoed by Warren and Washington counties, both of whom have put out dashboards in recent months to track overdose data.