By MARK EVANS
Estrella Carmona of the University of Missouri Extension Service and Ste. Genevieve Mayor Paul Hassler spoke at a short ceremony on drug addiction, Aug. 31, to mark National Overdose Awareness Day.
A small group gathered at the big pavilion in Pere Marquette Park, where Bill Kraemer, a local leader in opioid addiction awareness and treatment, had his giant purple ribbon.
He had introduced the ribbon during a public forum on drug addiction earlier in August, inviting anyone impacted by the problem to sign it.
“The overdose epidemic has taken far too heavy a toll on Americans and their loved ones,” Carmona said. “The epidemic is national, but the impact is personal. It is personal to the millions who confront substance abuse disorder every day and to the families who have lost a loved one to overdose.
“During Overdose Awareness Day we recommit to taking actions to prevent overdoses and related death and enhance our support with individuals with substance abuse disorder.”
Hassler, who is also associate pastor at Hope Church, shared that the problem has impacted him.
“I’ve dealt with drug use and overdoses for the past five years,” he said. “I have personally three or four people I’ve worked with who have overdosed and died of it, so it is personal to me. I have family members too, that have dealt with drug abuse and alcoholism.”
Hassler admitted that his views on the subject have changed.
“When I first started, I was very hard against anybody that had an abuse problem,” he said. “I figured it was their fault and they could do something about it if they wanted to. I didn’t have much empathy for those kinds of folks.”
Experience has given him a much different perspective.
“After you learn and you share their side with somebody, you learn, you hear the rest of the story,” he said. “Everybody has a story. You hear of abuse and neglect and several reasons why somebody could use the drugs to medicate themselves. We live in a society where we’ve got great health care if you’ve got insurance. We’ve got a problem with people not having insurance to get health care, to be able to go to community counseling or go to a counselor and go to a program. It’s not available to everybody.”