OXFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The opioid crisis is still raging throughout Connecticut, claiming lives at startling rates. People gathered in Oxford Sunday night, hoping to bring awareness to what’s happening.
Vinny Provenzano lost his daughter, Lauren, to addiction about 9 weeks ago. Her addiction was hard on the whole family. He often thinks of her smile.
“When she would smile like that she had a giggle that went along with it,” Provenzano said. “That giggle would just brighten up my whole life.”
Provenzano was one of several speakers at Oxford’s vigil. The community came together to increase awareness of opioid addiction. Susan Schiavi helped organize it, and it’s personal for her. Her son struggles with addiction.
“There is a stigma in a lot of towns, in our town,” she said. “They’re not junkies. They’re our kids.”
It’s a very real problem across Connecticut. More than a thousand people are expected to die from overdoses this year. Seven people in Oxford died from overdoses in 2016 alone. Town leaders say it’s something people need to be talking about.
“If that were West Nile or something like that everyone would be in a flutter over it. This is much more fatal,” said George Temple, First Selectman of Oxford.
The vigil brought the community together to support families dealing with addiction and give them resources that could help.
“They oftentimes feel alone, ashamed, embarrassed,” said Pamela Mautte, director of BH Care for the Alliance for Prevention and Wellness. “We need to end the stigma regarding substance use disorders.”
The vigil was also a way to remember those who have died, like Lauren. It celebrated their lives and gave families still dealing with addiction hope.
“[Lauren] wanted me to know that they’re not bad people, Dad. We’re just caught up in this,” said Provenzano.
The town has created an Opioid Crisis Steering Committee to help address the problem.
The vigil was held in September because it’s National Recovery Month.