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Recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day in Milwaukee

Local leaders will speak at three pop-up memorial events about the importance of creating programs for those who struggle with addiction.
Overdose Deaths
Posted at 6:18 AM, Aug 31, 2022

MILWAUKEE — Wednesday is International Overdose Awareness day, a day to recognize the people that have been affected or lost their lives to the tragedy.

Beginning at 10 a.m., local city and community leaders, including Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Fire Chief Aaron Lipski, will meet at Milwaukee's Samad's House for one of three pop-up memorial events to speak on the importance of creating programs that help stop the growing problem of overdoses in our area.

In 2021, Milwaukee County saw 613 overdose deaths that's up from 523 in 2020 and 402 in 2019.

The county is on pace to set another record for drug overdoses this year.

But, for Tahira Malik it's a personal fight she doesn't plan on losing.

"I stand here firmly and proudly as a survivor of the opioid crisis," Malik said.

After fighting and overcoming her battle she founded Samad's House.

Samad's House is an organization on the city's north side that provides resources and support for people with a history of substance abuse.

"Once they are able to come back to life, show them that there is a better way to live," Malik said.

City leaders are taking several approaches to save lives including handing out narcan nasal sprays, and fentanyl testing strips.

Leaders will also invest money the city received from a nationwide opioid lawsuit, to help those struggling most.

The majority of the money will go towards harm reduction strategies.

Strategies that could have saved Jason Fritz's brother Terry.

"He would detox on his own at my parent's house where he lived and was successful many times," Jason said.

Terry died in 2014 from an accidental heroin overdose.

After seven tough years, Jason made it his mission to raise funds to give people another chance at life.

"My hope is that my family's strength and openness to speak about Terry gives more people hope," Jason said.

Here in Wisconsin, synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl, were found in 91% of opioid-related overdose deaths in our state in 2021.

On a worldwide level, Wednesday is the largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.

Efforts to save lives from drug overdose are continually evolving. The CDC estimates more than 107,000 people lost their lives to drug overdose in the United States in 2021.

Along with the event at Samad's House, there is an afternoon memorial at the Southside Health Center at 1 p.m. and a resource fair at Humboldt Park beginning at 4 p.m.

The City of Milwaukee also announced that buildings and bridges will illuminate purple as part of the annual campaign to end overdose.

Outside of Milwaukee, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow proposed his 2023 budget, including plans to fight the opioid crisis.

Farrow proposed using $188,000 to enhance Waukesha County's Drug Treatment Court, $225,000 to expand existing correctional treatment programs to reduce relapses, and $316,000 for treatment and testing for adult and youth patients.

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