North Country overdose survivors, families of victims share stories to break stigmas

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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) – On Wednesday, survivors and families of victims gathered in downtown Watertown, to bring awareness to the drug overdose epidemic happening in the North Country.

Jefferson County has officially designated September 15, Overdose Awareness Day in a crisis the county faces of an acute drug epidemic in heroin and fentanyl use, within the city of Watertown. To bring awareness to this issue, overdose survivors and families of victims share their stories focused on breaking stigmas to provide support

“We thought we had a handle on this problem,” Jefferson County District Attorney Krystina Mills said. “And then the pandemic hit, and reforms hit, and we slid so far backward.”

The Watertown City Police Department has administered Narcan kits on 125 individuals, 12 of which were unsuccessful said Mills, which in the last year and a half has claimed the lives of 50 county residents.

Community member Lauria Porter shared how breaking this stigma in her family helped her son in his initial recovery.

Porter’s family was first in denial when they realized her son had an addiction, but it was when they began providing support, this is when he started his recovery Porter said, advice all members of the community can take in fighting the drug crisis.

“The shame and the stigma that comes with addiction is absolutely crippling,” Porter said. “If you let it, it can be the reason that recovery is futile.”

“Don’t ever give up hope,” said Porter, “Stand up for your loved ones. Speak out against the faulty thinking of today’s society; the shame and the blame. Don’t be afraid to save a life because you never know that that life that you save, maybe the life of your own child.”

Grant Robinson, also shares his story on surviving multiple overdoses said, it is time to break the stigma.

“I ask anybody out there, to stop calling people junkies and dirty and addicts,” Robinson urged. “That’s not what they are. They are somebody’s children, or somebody’s brothers, parents, their people. They are loved and they deserve to be treated just like anyone else.”

As a survivor, Robinson is now a spokesperson and Narcan trainer. He has worked to form overdose emergency kits that contain Narcan kits and Fentanyl testing strips.

Free Narcan kits can be obtained by contacting the Alliance for Better Communities. Below are resources for those struggling with addiction:

  • Samhsa National 24/7 Help Line: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • NYS OASAS 27/7 Hopeline: 1-877-8-HOPENY
  • Crisis & Recovery Center (Malone) 24/7 Crisis Line: 518-481-8160
  • PIVOT: 315-788-4660
  • Jefferson County Crisis Responce: 315-782-2327

The biggest thing community members or survivors like him can do is learn how to respond to future overdoses Robinson said.

“It could be somebody who you see in traffic, or in a parking lot, but this disease is affecting everybody,” Robinson said. “I encourage [survivors] to help others. Give back, pay it forward a hundred percent. Give others the tools that saved your life. That is what I encourage.”

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