Unlike with other tragic deaths, long lines of well-wishers don’t often show up at the front door for families whose loved ones have died from heroin overdoses.
In fact, the visitors are few and far between, and often in communities like Everett, the deceased is quietly – and sometimes secretly – mourned.
That’s the battle Patti Scalesse witnessed in her own family, and that of friends whose children and grandchildren got caught up in the web of addition and fatal overdoses. It’s why she decided to start Everett Overcoming Addiction last October, and why she felt families who have bore the brunt of addiction needed a vigil to provide closure and healing.
It’s buoyed all the more by the fact that it recently was revealed that Everett was 11th in the state for drug overdose deaths.
“All lives matter and that’s the purpose of this,” she said. “When your child dies of a drug overdose, it’s a totally different thing than if they died of cancer. If they died of cancer everyone would be at your doorstep. When they die of an overdose, only a few people come by. I lost a niece 10 years ago in a car accident and everyone was at my house. I lost my 17-year-old nephew six months ago to a drug overdose and only a few people came out.”
The candlelight vigil will take place at Sacramone Park on June 7 from 6-8 p.m.
The vigil will include a solemn reading of those who have been lost, with the sounding of a bell for each name read. Names will be submitted to the organization from families participating in the vigil.
Others involved in the program will be speakers who are in recovery, or who have experienced addiction and death from addiction in their families.
“We have three speakers that are in recovery,” she said. “One has been in recovery one month, the other two years and the other five years. We have two family members who have been affected by overdose deaths. One of those is a 21 year old girl who lost both her parents to heroin overdoses. She will speak about her and her younger sister, who is going to graduate Everett High next week and will be going to Boston College.”
Scalesse will also discuss her own experiences in dealing with the addiction of her son. She said once she found out her son was addicted to drugs, she struggled to find services.
She went to City Hall and the Police Department and found that there was nothing readily available.
“They handed me a piece of paper with a phone number,” she said. “You learn as you go. I’ve talked now with the mayor and the police chief and other City officials. People are coming around, but it’s still very hard…My goal is to hopefully get a counselor in place at City Hall – someone who knows about addiction and knows where people can go and get services. Medford is in the process right now of hiring someone full-time to help families. I am calling for Everett to do that as well. I’ve also seen in Revere that the fire department sends a package to the family the next day if they respond to an overdose. We can piggy back off of other cities.”
More than anything, Scalesse said it is time to get rid of the stigma in Everett concerning heroin and heroin overdoses.
“Everyone is at different stages coping with it,” she said. “When I found out my son was an addict, it took me a little while to say it without crying. Then, I tried to hide it. Finally, I said, ‘I can’t hide it anymore.’ You meet people who want to share, but don’t know how. We just have to take down the walls of stigma here. That’s what we hope this vigil will begin to do.”
Anyone who would like to submit a name to be read at the vigil can do so by sending an e-mail to [email protected] or by sending a message on the Everett Overcoming Addiction Facebook page.