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"That's someone's son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister. We will do everything that we possibly can to save lives."

Those words from Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol speaking at a gathering in Oneida County on Wednesday to mark International Opioid Overdose Awareness Day. Maciol, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara and County Executive Anthony Picente joined members of the county's Opioid Overdose Task Force and the families of local victims of the devastating disease.

The group came to together to spread awareness and a message of hope. They are also working to continue breaking down stigmas associated with addiction, especially to opioids, officials said.

Guest speaker Gary Mendell of Shatterproof speaks on International Opioid Overdose Awareness Day in Oneida County, TSM
Guest speaker Gary Mendell of Shatterproof speaks on International Opioid Overdose Awareness Day in Oneida County, TSM

Since 2013, Oneida County has lost 537 lives to overdose, officials said, noting that similar to other terrible diseases like cancer, it's hard to find someone who hasn't been touched by the opioid epidemic.

"Off the top of my head I can name three people working in my office who have lost a sibling or someone close to them to overdose. A friend of mine growing up lost a child. Fentanyl is the problem, not just heroin. Fentanyl is being found in cocaine and even marijuana," and continues to claim lives, DA McNamara said.

So far in 2022, there have been 49 overdose deaths, officials said.

Meanwhile, in an effort to reduce the number of fatal overdoses, area businesses, organizations and private individuals can pick up FREE 'Save-a-Life' Kits, which contain two potentially life saving doses of naloxone (Narcan).


"There is no training required, it's a simple spray in the nose. There are instructions in the packets," Picente said. Those interested in obtaining a 'Save-a-Life' Kit can visit, or contact the Oneida County Health Department, he said.

Over the last two months, the county has distributed more than 1,200 of the kits throughout Oneida County, officials said.

Wednesday's event featured guest speaker Gary Mendell, founder and CEO of Shatterproof. Mendell's son battled addiction and ultimately took his own life, prompting him to start the national non-profit that looks to remove stigma's associated with addiction, he said.

Those who suffer from addiction, and their families, should not feel ashamed or embarrassed, Mendell said, just they don't feel ashamed when someone is diagnosed with a deadly disease.

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