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Dyngus Day Delight, by Cindy Schreiner

Second annual “Black Balloon Day” will highlight the 15 overdose deaths that occurred in Steuben County in 2021

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Steuben to commemorate lost lives due to substance abuse Feb. 22, 2022

BATH – Fifteen people died due to substance abuse overdose in Steuben County last year, nearly double the loss in 2020. The majority of overdoses in the county were as a result of heroin use with fentanyl overdose being the second highest contributor. Opioid overdoses in 2021 soared compared to the year before, jumping to 264 reported cases.

They weren’t statistics. They were someone’s child, mom or dad, brother, sister, best friend. They were loved and loving. Americans are more likely to die of an opioid overdose than they are from a car accident or by a gun, according to the National Institute of Health.

Celebrating the lives, mourning the loss – and preventing the next one – will be the subject of the second annual Black Balloon Day, hosted by the Steuben Prevention Coalition Opioid Committee, which also will join the national commemoration March 6, and host a virtual forum from 7-8 pm featuring speakers with strong local ties and real time experiences.

Coalition Forum speaker Brandon Beuter overdosed six times before recovery. His fiancée and the mother of his son died of an overdose. More than 30 of Beuter’s friends and acquaintances have died due to what is now known as Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). “I really want to bring awareness to, and understanding of, addiction, OUD and overdose,” said Beuter, now a certified peer advocate with AIM and a coalition committee chair. “I tried to overdose Intentionally to die because I didn’t see another way out. That is a real driving force behind bringing awareness and most importantly hope!”

Launched in 2016 in Massachusetts by Diane Hurley and her daughter, Lauren Cook, the day first noted the tragic passing of their family member Greg Tremblay. The father of four, Tremblay died of an overdose on March 6, 2015. He was 38. Some 42,000 people joined them for the first event, which has swiftly grown and crossed international borders. The Steuben Coalition also will join the national remembrance, with black balloons flying throughout the county and proclamations issued by local leaders.

Those lost lives will be remembered at 10 a.m. on March 6 throughout Steuben on Black Balloon Day – as families throughout the United States and the world remember and celebrate the lives lost to drug overdose. The tragedy of overdose death is one too familiar to too many people in Steuben, according to Nancy and Bob Reigelsperger, who lost a son to an Opioid overdose. “Our hope is to encourage families towards recovery,” Bob Reigelsperger said. “We know recovery does work, but for us, sadly that ship has sailed. We don’t want other families to experience our loss.”

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