WEST SAND LAKE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Local communities worked to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic as part of International Overdose Day.

“I don’t want to lose my son or my sister because that’s next; that’s next,” Paula Beckwith said.

While Beckwith’s son and sister are currently in recovery, her niece died of an overdose five years ago.

“It killed all of us,” she said.

Since she was young, Erin-Beth Marotte has been struggling to let go of opioids and heroin. But she never could – even with the help of family.

“They hate being addicts,” Beckwith said. “They hate it, but there’s nothing they can do until they’re ready or they die.”

Now, Beckwith tries to make sure what happened to her niece doesn’t happen again by bringing awareness at a rally hosted by the NOpiates Committee.

“We’re still losing our loved ones every day,” NOpiates Committee Co-Executive Dir. Kim Murdick said.

Murdick lost her son Sean to a heroin overdose nearly two years ago. She said having the community come together is the best way to initiate change and get rid of the stigma.

“Together with our collective voice, we will be heard,” she said. “There is something that we can do about this.”

While they’ve made progress, local politicians acknowledge there’s still a long way to go.

“Society and government is starting to wake up to the fact that we need to look at drug addiction as a disease,” Assemblyman John McDonald said.

“We need to say that these are not people that we should turn our back on,” Rensselaer Co. Exec. Kathy Jimino said.

Beckwith said that’s what it comes down to: making people understand that those struggling with abuse are still good people.

“They just need community behind them to realize how much they’re struggling, so they can live,” she said.