LORAIN, Ohio — The opioid epidemic has surged at an alarming rate, killing a record number of Ohioans each day.
On Wednesday, the community is coming together to shine a light on the issue for International Overdose Awareness Day and break the stigma surrounding it.
Community leaders and those that lost loved ones say it starts with an opening conversation.
"Heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, crack, prescription drugs--they'll all kill you," said North Ridgeville mom Patty Hart.
Enough is enough.
It's a strong and deeply personal message coming from mom of four Hart.
She tragically lost her sons, Marcus and Nathan, to drug overdoses.
On International Overdose Awareness Day, survivors of the Opioid epidemic and those that have been directly impacted are breaking their silence and sharing their stories of hope, healing, and action.
"We can't give up cause they are mothers, they are fathers, they are loved ones that are praying to God that they don't get the call that we got... We have to encourage them. Reach out," said Hart.
This all comes on the heels of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announcing the state is observing Overdose Awareness Day for the second year in a row.
September in Ohio will be dedicated to Recovery Month.
Officials in Lorain County say this year brought a surge in overdoses and deaths.
Wednesday night, they're opening the floor for people to stand together at a community vigil.
"It's time to bring this to the forefront so that we can speak of it--the same as we would speak of, you know if someone's family was affected by diabetes or, you know, something like that," said Jinx Mastney, Opioid Response Outreach Coordinator for Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services Board of Lorain County.
The CDC reports more than 107,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2021.
That's a 15 % jump from 2020.
Preliminary numbers from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner showed that 714 people died of overdoses last year. In 2020, 533 people overdosed and died. In Lorain County, 143 people lost their lives to drug overdoses.
Officials say the pandemic also complicated the Opioid epidemic, resulting in relapses and preventing recovering addicts from getting the necessary treatment and resources that were once so readily available.
Hart says her pain will never go away, but she's encouraging everyone to now work as one to end the epidemic of overdose deaths.
"Even through the pain, we have to speak... I am my boys' voice and that's how I keep them alive," said Hart.
A vigil is set for 5 p.m. at Lorain County Community College's Spitzer Conference Center.
It's set to run through 8 p.m.
Officials will give out free Naloxone kits and provide other resources.
Everyone is encouraged to wear purple for Overdose Awareness Day to show their support.
Other vigils are planned across the state.