PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Families gathered to remember their late loved ones lost to a drug overdose at the cty of Port St. Lucie's National Overdose Awareness Day event Tuesday.
"I lost my son Gregory, May 9, 2019, to a fentanyl overdose," Rita McCarthy said.
Nearly 80 names were read after a candlelight procession took place at the city's botanical garden.
McCarthy said the memories of her late son are still fresh.
"He was a terrific kid and on the right path and took a wrong turn and that was it," she said.
"It's horrendous," Pattie Roberts, event organizer and deputy director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
Roberts lost her son to an overdose in 2018.
She and McCarthy said the opioid epidemic does not discriminate.
"Any walk of life," McCarthy said. "He had a very good life, very good boy. [He] always went to private school, was an A student. It's not supposed to happen to our family."
"The message needs to get out there that these lives matter," Roberts said. "We need to celebrate their lives and raise the awareness to it."
Roberts said more than 93,000 people died in 2020 from drug overdoses, a more than 30% increase compared to 2019.
She's hoping the city's Healthy You program, a monthly discussion on mental health, will help drive the conversation and save lives.
"It's something that really needs to be talked about," McCarthy said. "I don't know how to make it better. If I did, my son would still be here."