Activists raise awareness of drug addiction and overdose

Activists raise awareness of drug addiction and overdose

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - "Addicts Lives Matter" was the message at a powerful and emotional gathering in Memphis on Sunday.

The event culminated in a march through the city to city hall to honor lives lost to addiction.

The poster in front of city hall is filled with pictures, all of them men women and teenagers who died from drug overdoses in Memphis.

Dozens of people, which included recovering addicts and family members who lost a loved one to drugs, marched downtown from Court Square to city hall.

There they placed 144 pairs of shoes at the front doors to symbolize the 144 people who die from an overdose every day in America.

Ron Heirs is a recovering addict and participated in the march.

"I did amounts of dope that certainly killed more and lesser people," Heirs said.

For Heirs, that was caught on camera. A video showing Ron overdosing on heroin at a Memphis bus stop was shared worldwide and made Ron the face of the drug epidemic in America.

"It was a surreal moment in my life," Heirs said. "It was the thing that woke me up that allowed me to find the hope I needed."

On Sunday, Heirs marched a sober man with a message.

"For the addicts, there's hope," Heirs said. "There is a solution."

Their goal is to get the attention of not just the public, but of city leaders in Memphis to make real changes to address this problem.

"It's a pain that I didn't even know existed until I watched my baby laying in that hospital bed begging him to come back to life, that was hard," said Mary Cox, who lost her son to drug overdose.

"We have got to wake up," said Becky Farruggia, founder of Hearts for Hope and Healing. "Denial and staying in denial and ignoring that big pink elephant in the room is just not working anymore. We can't afford to keep burying children."

Organizers of this event hope to keep it going for many years to come, to bring more attention to the need for medical and mental care for addicts and to humanize people suffering from addiction.

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