ST. LOUIS - It was a night of remembering and a night of solidarity for those touched by drug abuse.
According to a representative with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) in St. Louis, there have been 214 confirmed drug overdoses so far this year and 168 of those were from fentanyl.
Drugs took the life of 22-year-old Michael Fitzwalter.
“We were ashamed. The word heroin we haven’t heard that word since the 60s or 70s,” said his father.
That’s a stigma that Ellis Fitzwalter is now fighting against through his organization called H.E.A.L. Stop Heroin.
It was one of several groups at the NCADA’s (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse) annual remembrance and resource dinner.
“There’s a plethora of local resources that can really help people, both while they're in the middle of their journeys of their addiction or if they’ve lost a loved one. There’s a lot of grief and support services that are available as well,” says Nichole Dawsey, NCADA’s executive director.
It’s an illness that knows no zip code, age or ethnicity.
“Locally here we’ve lost almost 1,000. Those are cousins, brothers, sisters, spouses, children and so it’s up to us to put a human face on that,” said Dawsey.
Fitzwalter says, “You need to take the blinders off and go out and learn before it does happen to you because it’s hard to see a family that hasn’t been touched by this in some shape or form."
NCADA has a network of resources as well as other tools like free Narcan and drug disposal kits.