Stories of loss and survival shared at overdose awareness vigil - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Stories of loss and survival shared at overdose awareness vigil in Dubuque

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

In Dubuque County alone, 23 known overdose cases have been reported in 2016--nine of those have been fatal.

Even more startling: Dubuque, Black Hawk, Johnson and Linn Counties account for half of the state's entire heroin related lab submissions.

Those facts put the problem into stark focus Wednesday night in Dubuque, as hundreds gathered in Washington Park for the first ever overdose awareness vigil.

The vigil, held on International Overdose Awareness Day, featured speakers who have been affected so personally by heroin and opioid usage.

Amanda Kearney just celebrated two years sober earlier this month, and is one of many sharing her story.

"I was a semester away from graduating with my masters in mental health, because heroin became the most important thing in my life, and that resulted in a couple years of absolute agony," she said.

Casandra Shaw is also sharing her story.  She lost her brother two years ago to a heroin overdose.  She first heard the news when her mom called to tell her.

"So I answered, and to be honest, I don't even know what she said. I just heard her crying and I knew. And I fell to my knees in my driveway," she said.

The event was hosted by I Hate Heroin and CRUSH (Community Resources United to Stop Heroin) of Eastern Iowa.

"I think that when people are suffering from addiction, they can feel worthless, and they can feel a lot of shame and a lot of guilt. They need to know that they're loved and that there are people who care about them and want to see them live," Carolyn Scherf of Dubuque said.

It's that message that compelled Ashley Immerzeel to tell her story of addiction and recovery.

"And I guess if I can get my story out there of how I quit, I might not be able to stop that person from quitting, but I might be able to help them," she said.

The White House also releasing a Presidential Proclamation, announcing September as National Alcohol and Drug Recovery Month.  In it, President Obama says he's recommended the government invest $1 billion for treatment of opioid and heroin usage.

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