Officials, residents gather to fight opioid addiction

By TIM SINIARD
Posted 9/10/18

It was an evening of music and inspiration, as well as resolve, as mourners of loved ones who have succumbed to the ravages of opioid abuse gathered Saturday for the “Light the Night” event to …

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Officials, residents gather to fight opioid addiction

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It was an evening of music and inspiration, as well as resolve, as mourners of loved ones who have succumbed to the ravages of opioid abuse gathered Saturday for the “Light the Night” event to remember loved ones, as well as fight opioid abuse.

Th event was held at the Greenway Park and hosted by ATS The Bridge. Speakers included Gary Sears, Rachel Goins, Mayor-elect Kevin Brooks, Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson, John Sutton, Cleveland Police Department Chief Mark Gibson, Bradley County District Attorney Steve Crump and others.

Members of Westmore Church of God’s Drama Troupe and the Washington Avenue Baptist Church’s Praise Band also performed during the event.

Members of the Bradley County Sheriff's Office and the Cleveland Police Department were also present in support of the evening's message.

The ceremony began with live music from the Element Praise Band, testimonials and expressions of support by the speakers and a reading names of those lost to drug addiction.

Sears introduced Goins, remarking that she “is on the forefront of the battle” against drug abuse. Her son, Mason Crisp, died last year. He was 24.

“I never thought I would get that phone call,” Goins said. 

Despite the despair caused by the loss of her son, Goins said her faith helped her emerge from her depression. She said those who are addicted can be saved through treatment and faith in God.

“I’m still here,” Goins said. “We are here because we want hope. As long as they are still alive, there is hope.”

Mayor-elect Kevin Brooks said drug addiction in Cleveland is a crisis.

“We need to show the light of this crisis,” Brooks said. “We need to lock our arms in support for the families and children in crisis.”

Brooks, who will assume office Monday, expressed his pledge of support for those fighting drug addiction.

“We will stop this in our city and county,” Brooks said.

Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson said his agency is dedicated to fighting drug abuse. He issued a warning to those who distribute drugs.

“We will be after you every day,” Lawson said. “We will fight this epidemic.”

CPD Chief Mark Gibson described a drug abuse victim the department had attempted to save several times.

“She had been resuscitated on two previous calls,” Gibson said. “The third time, it was too late.”

Gibson said his department is “committed to working with the community” to fight drug addiction.

The misery of heroin addiction was described by John Sutton, who said he is currently in his fifth month of recovery. Sutton said his descent into addiction began with a prescription for painkillers for a torn rotator cuff suffered when he was a high school wrestler.

“It’s been a long battle,” Sutton said. “I am ecstatic to be able to stand here.”

Sutton said his years of drug addiction included homelessness and living on the streets. He said he remembered sleeping on concrete in freezing temperatures, as well as begging for food.

A poem by Edgar Guest titled “A Child of Mine” was read by Savannah Stone before a reading of the names of loved ones lost to drug addiction.

Crump said drug abuse affects everyone.

“Yes, it’s in your family,” Crump said. “It’s in my family.”

Crump said he recently lost a family member to drug addiction. 

Within an hour of taking office as attorney general, Crump said he had received his first phone call informing him of a death due to an overdose. It is almost a daily occurrence now.

“The phone has not stopped ringing,” Crump said.

Crump encouraged the crowd to communicate with others in an effort to put a halt to deaths caused by drug addiction.

“Not one more,” Crump reiterated.


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