MONTICELLO – “I got into EMS because I want to give back to my friends through strangers,” guest speaker and recovering addict Yadi Montes told the crowd at the 3rd annual …
MONTICELLO – “I got into EMS because I want to give back to my friends through strangers,” guest speaker and recovering addict Yadi Montes told the crowd at the 3rd annual International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) Vigil held August 31 outside of the Lawrence H. Cooke Courthouse in Monticello.
“That’s how I make amends,” she said. Montes noted that the evening marked 1 year and 21 days of being sober from that which controlled her life, to which she received a standing ovation.
This year’s IOAD theme was “Recognizing Those People Who Go Unseen,” with a focus on family members and friends left in the wake of tragedy spawned by addiction.
Seventeen orgainzations dedicated to recovery and assistance set up booths with information on the lawn of the courthouse.
Montes, along with guest speaker Suzy Loughlin who spoke on her late brother Anthony’s struggles, shared personal stories of their own or their loved one’s afflictions with the disease of addiction. Moving the crowd with their own experiences, the importance of IOAD was highlighted by the speakers’ connections to all those in the crowd who may share a similar story with the pain of loss being the link that binds.
Following a welcome speech by Sullivan County Commissioner of Health and Human Services, John Liddle, Sullivan 180 Outreach Coordinator and emcee Lindsay Wheat invited a number of speakers to the podium, each one motivated in their own ways to ending addiction and providing visual and vocal support to those who are struggling. Local elected officials and professionals in the field who deal with the effects of the opioid epidemic every day in Sullivan County gave remarks on the somber day of remembrance.
On the streets seeing the dangers of illegal substance use disorders and addiction first-hand are Mobilemedic EMS’s Albee Bockman, Sullivan County Coroner Alan Kesten, Sullivan County Acting District Attorney (DA) Brian Conaty and Liberty Police Chief Steven D’Agata. Each spoke on their own attempts within their respective fields to reduce the fatalities caused by addiction, as well as decrease availability of illegal substances through policing and prosecution.
At the legislative level, U.S. Congressman Marc Molinaro, NYS Senator Peter Oberacker and NYS Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther highlighted their experiences with the epidemic from Capitol Hill in both Washington, DC and Albany. Recently, Sullivan County received HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) designation status – allowing the area to receive better funding to fight back to being on the road to recovery through the legislation.
The large crowd out front of the courthouse took to their words – with community and togetherness being a crucial bond for everyone.
As performances by Ashley Imperato (dance number titled “Recovery”) and the Sullivan County Choir embraced the chilly air, candles were lit one by one by sharing the flame with neighbors and friends. Attendees were invited to the podium to speak allowed the name or names of loved ones that they have lost to the disease.
Luminaries also lined the steps of the courthouse, each transcribed with a message or name – noting that each person lost is still “someone’s someone,” as Lindsay Wheat noted.
One of the main messages raised by the speakers was the need to be open and honest with their loved ones for those who suffer addiction and feel isolated because of it. Montes admitted her own struggles with coming out with her addictions, keeping her recovery a secret for nine months, but ending up finding community and support because of her openness.
The speakers acknowledged the reason why so many people do not seek help — the stigma around illegal substances.
In the push to end the stigma, Montes urged others who may be quietly suffering to speak up about their needs and struggles despite social pressures.
“Secrets keep us sick,” she said.
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