A standing-room-only audience attended the second annual Action Drug Overdose Awareness Day Candlelight Vigil at the Action Family Zone in Santa Clarita Friday night.
More than 110 Santa Clarita Valley residents gathered for two hours to remember loved ones and friends who have died of drug overdoses or alcohol poisoning in the past decade.
The Action Family Foundation, the nonprofit wing of the Santa Clarita-based Action Family Counseling drug and alcohol treatment and recovery centers, hosted the vigil, a sober, somber affair.
Action Candlelight Vigil had Three-Fold Purpose
The candlelight vigil’s purpose was three-fold, said Bob Sharits, Action program director and the evening’s co-emcee, with Action founder/CEO Cary Quashen, just before it started.
“It’s to memorialize those who have lost their lives, and to support the loved ones left behind,” Sharits said. “But the big picture is for everyone to leave here tonight carrying the message that drugs kill. We want to save some lives tonight.”
Vigil is Santa Clarita’s Observation of International Drug Overdose Awareness Day
Action’s Candlelight Vigil was a local observation of International Drug Overdose Awareness Day, established in Australia in 2001 and observed worldwide on Aug. 31. Action held its vigil Friday because that day falls on Labor Day weekend in the United States.
“We’re doing better here this year, with fewer drug overdoses, but in the 12 years since International Drug Overdose Day started, we’ve had an average of 10 drug-related overdoses per year in the Santa Clarita Valley,” Sharits said. “So we have 120 candles we will light in memory of loved ones who died of drug overdoses, and in support of the grieving family and friends left behind.”
In the first half of 2013, there were only two fatal overdoses confirmed by authorities at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, both from prescription pills. Another three deaths are suspected drug overdoses, but toxicology results are not yet available. Even at five so far this year, the number of overdose deaths is fewer than the 14 recorded in 2012.