Moving Starke County Forward Hosts Overdose Awareness Service

Overdose Awareness 1
Aaron Kochar from Porter-Starke Services lights a candle in memory of a life lost to a drug overdose. A total of 61 candles were lit during last evening’s ceremony.

Community members paused last night at Wythogan Park to celebrate the 61 Starke County lives lost to drug overdoses over the past seven years as well as those who are in long-term recovery. Aaron Kochar is the director of prevention and education at Porter-Starke Services. He says people are now more likely to die from a fatal overdose than from a car accident.

“Up until last year, if you died in an accident it was some sort of motor vehicle accident. Now it’s overdose. Another statistic that is concerning is the fact that while a number of people will die in overdose from heroin, in fact we’ve got about three times the number who will die from a prescription opioid overdose.”

Kochar says it’s important to properly dispose of prescription drugs that are no longer needed and lock up drugs that are kept in the home.

“We’ll tend to lock up our liquor cabinets, but kids are taking these drugs and having what are known as Skittle parties. They’re taking them out, putting a bunch of pills in a bowl and popping a couple at parties. That’s one of the reasons that we’re seeing such an epidemic with the number of opioids, and then when people can’t access opioids they switch to heroin. The body processes it the same way.”

Overdose Awareness 2Recovering addict Michael Hookman also spoke during last night’s vigil. He says he got the opportunity to get treatment and took it seriously.

“A lot of people didn’t get that chance, you know. Most of the addicts that are out there using today, they don’t want to be addicted. They don’t know that there’s ways out there to get help. They don’t know that there’s people out there that actually care about them, because as a community a lot of us look down at addicts. We don’t give them the time of day because we think it’s a lost cause, and it’s not.”

Hookman says he thinks more clearly since he’s been in recovery and adds he’s trying to reach out to younger addicts.

“I like going home and seeing my kids’ smiling faces. You know I wouldn’t have seen that if I was in prison for nine years, and I got the opportunity to do that. I truly believe if I didn’t get arrested and go to jail and get that opportunity to go to rehab, I’d be another cross.”

Rev. Joseph Cunningham from St. Peter Lutheran Church in North Judson led the crowd in prayer, after which 61 candles were lit in honor of the 61 lives lost to drug addiction.