Overdose Vigil

Raymond Boccalella watches as photographs of people lost to drug overdoses scroll across a large screen Tuesday night at the fourth annual Drug Overdose and Prevention Vigil at Frederick Community College. Boccalella, a recovering addict, attended the event to support friends and others affected by the epidemic.

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In his opening remarks at the fourth annual Overdose and Prevention Vigil, State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said there is no lack of resources regarding the opioid epidemic in Frederick County. The event, he said, was trying to fill a different gap.

“What we lack is a time of remembrance for the people we’re losing to the battle of drug addiction each and every day,” said Smith, Frederick County’s top prosecutor.

The state’s attorney’s office held the fourth annual Drug Overdose and Prevention Vigil on Tuesday night at Frederick Community College. The purpose of the event is to remember those lost to addiction, as well as educating people about the resources available to help those who are struggling.

“It’s also an opportunity for people to come out and support each other,” said Will Cockey, a spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office and coordinator of the event. “And I think that as a community it’s an important opportunity to bring people together, to remember and to remind people that there are resources here to help deal with these issues.”

Many attendees had lost a loved one to addiction. Paige Willard came to the event because her former boyfriend had recently died, and hoped that she might be able to talk to people who had experienced something similar.

“Everyone here at some point understands at least a little of what I’m going through,” she said.

Other attendees had struggled with addiction themselves. Jacob Reid, of Frederick, came to the event for the first time this year. Although he is in recovery, he said that he has lost a lot of friends to addiction.

Frederick County is no stranger to the effects of the opioid crisis. The county saw 78 overdose deaths in both 2018 and 2017, according to previous News-Post reporting.

Deputy State’s Attorney Nanci Hamm spoke about starting the Frederick County Drug Treatment Court 15 years ago, and how it has changed her life. She plans to retire next year.

“I see so many aspects of people,” she said. “I get to impact their lives in a way I never could before drug court.”

She also said that the people she has met through drug court are the strongest people she knows. She introduced Cassandra Crouse, who went through drug court between 2015 and 2017, and has since began working at the Frederick County Health Department.

Crouse spoke about the string of “bad” decisions she made that led to her incarceration. Eventually, at the prospect of losing her son to child protective services, she decided to give drug court a chance. She called it her first “right” decision, and urged others to take the first step toward recovery.

“I’m so grateful for my life today. ... I know you can do it,” she said. “I did it. I’m not alone.”

Speakers at the vigil repeatedly spoke about loving and supporting their loved ones who struggle with addiction, even when it is difficult. Logan Beachley, a student at Brunswick High School, discussed his mother’s relationship with addiction. He said he ultimately had to love the addict and hate the addiction.

Maryland Budget Secretary David Brinkley also spoke about losing his son, David “Ross” Brinkley Jr., to a fentanyl overdose in April. He recalled trying to take his son to a rehab and recovery center, but Ross refused to get out of the car. Finally, when Ross got out to take a smoke break, the center’s employees urged Brinkley to drive away before Ross noticed. He did, even though it was hard.

“I was driving away from the addict, not my son,” Brinkley said.

The vigil also played a video in remembrance of Ross. In the video, Brinkley recalled a favorite memory with him, of traveling to New Orleans to see the Ravens win the Super Bowl.

He said that many people think that addicts are trying to chase the next high, but that’s not right.

“They’re pursuing just not feeling bad,” he said.

The vigil has always been held around the holidays, which is an especially hard time for those who have lost loved ones.

“Obviously this time of year is a difficult time for families with the holidays, and so it’s an opportunity to get together in remembrance of loved lost ones at a very difficult time of the year,” Cockey said.

Monday would have been Ross Brinkley’s 25th birthday.

“Thanksgiving was tough,” David Brinkley said. “Christmas will be tough.”

Photos of lost loved ones were placed on a table at the front of the room, and played on a slideshow later in the night. This year, 30 more photos were added to the existing photos, for a total of approximately 90 photos.

The night closed with a candlelight vigil.

Late in the ceremony, Smith talked about losing his older sister to an overdose. He, too, echoed the message that other speakers had driven home: the importance of love.

“You have to fight this with compassion and love and understanding,” he said.

Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley.

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