The community rallied Friday and Saturday to remember loved ones lost to drug overdose.
About 50 people participated in a candlelight vigil Friday night at the downtown Loudon fountain. As live music played, those attending were encouraged to take part in a thumbprint tree to remember lost lives.
“What we’re doing here tonight for the candlelight vigil is we’re just here to remember those who lost their battle to addiction,” Vicki Cowell, with The Prevention Alliance of Loudon County, said. “We’re also reminded of the ones who are still fighting for their life every day.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 47,600 people died from an opioid overdose in 2017. Saturday served as International Overdose Awareness Day.
“It keeps growing each year, the number, and that’s something that we would like to try to bring down,” Cowell said. “There’s about 1,600 lives in Tennessee lost each year, so that’s about five a day.
“... That’s 35 a week. That’s a huge number,” she added. “If we lost one life a week that’s too many. Anybody that loses that battle, I mean, it’s somebody’s daughter, son, mom, dad. It hits every family.”
Loudon Mayor Jeff Harris attended Friday to lead prayer and show his support for the cause.
“I think it’s a big deal just because I think we hear the statistics and we hear all that, but I think it’s just something that we never know, it could be any home or hometown,” Harris said. “I think it’s just good to heighten everybody’s awareness of this ongoing problem that we have with opioids and pain medication. Sometimes we want to think it’s just heroin and things like that, but it’s a lot more than that.”
Addiction does not discriminate, he said.
“Anything we can do to prevent or at least make more people aware of what the warning signs are and that kind of thing and get them help quicker, that’s what we need to do,” Harris said.
Saturday morning outside the Lenoir City Municipal Building, Mayor Tony Aikens and Harris released five balloons, each representing lives lost each day to a drug overdose.
“Five people die on a daily basis in Tennessee from an overdose,” Aikens said. “We have go to continue to bring people together, working together, and make people aware of the problem. Groups like this, this one and others, it helps do that. We’ve got to continue to work together and it’s just so important that we continue to remind people this on a daily basis that it is a problem and it’s a problem in Loudon County.”
Recognizing there is a problem is the first step to making a difference, Harris said.
“At the Prevention Alliance we’re just trying to raise awareness to that,” Cowell said. “To get help you have to realize there’s a problem, and so as a community if we can go arm-in-arm, I think we can really combat and make a difference in our community.”
The group launched in January with a focus on prevention efforts for misuse of alcohol, tobacco and prescription substance abuse.