National Overdose Day in West Palm Beach honors lives taken by opioid crisis with march

Posted at 10:28 PM, Aug 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-31 23:55:06-04

They were someone's daughter, son, mother, father and friend. Locals marched in West Palm Beach to remember them. Hundreds of people have died from drug overdoses in Palm Beach County in what the health community is calling an opioid epidemic. 

Each name read and written across a banner represented a life gone too soon because of drug overdoses. 

"I saw other mothers that lost their children and I just know that look and it’s so hard to see that look from somebody else," said Cathy Gulker who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose just two weeks ago.

Shelby Marie Gulker, 22, had just gotten out of recovery. 

"She was the funniest person you’d ever meet. She had the best sense of humor," said Gulker.

The Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition says young adults are the majority dying from the synthetic opioid crisis. 

"The opioid epidemic is really hitting south Florida hard just like it is every else in the country, with nearly or excuse me, over 1400 overdoses in Palm Beach County alone and several of those, several hundred of those leading to death," said Micah Robbins, Special Projects Director of the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition.

Linda Mautner with the Southeast Florida Recovery Advocates is working to raise awareness. She lost her son to what she describes as a drug-induced suicide. Since then she's been fighting to regulate the controversial herb - kratom. 

"I was ready to give up several times and especially when the state of Florida turned it down and killed our bill but I just prayed and prayed," said Mautner.

This week the DEA announced effective September 30, it is banning Kratom and labeling it as a Schedule I drug. 

"I feel like my son would be very proud," said Mautner. 

Like Linda, other parents and community members walked to show their loved ones life mattered, and this epidemic can affect anyone. 

"They go, oh that's just a junkie that died," cried Gulker. "They're people and they deserve to have everything done to get justice for them."