ALTON — Your child is showing the first signs of drug withdrawal, and all of the local rehab facilities are full. Where can you turn?
Beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, Lifehouse Church, located at 3825 Seminary St. in Alton, will host its first Drug Addiction and Awareness Rally.
The Metro Addiction Awareness Group of Illinois (MAAGI), an organization dedicated to educating the community on options such as outpatient help and day counseling for addicts who are on waiting lists to get into rehabilitation facilities, is the force behind the rally.
“Don’t give up on your addict, because there is help,” MAAGI founder Loral Emery-Lamere said. “Sometimes the waiting list for rehab can be months, and this is an epidemic, both in our county here and nationwide, that cannot wait. There are many facilities and programs in Madison County that families probably do not even know about.”
Emery-Lamere formed the group last September, following the death of her own son, Kyle.
“We lost our son on Easter Sunday and were trying to make sense of it all,” she said. “I went online and found several groups having candlelight vigils, and MAAGI was created from those vigils.”
The free event, sponsored by LIFESUPPORT (an outreach of Lifehouse Church) will feature speakers from the area with topics related to the issue, the importance of counseling for families, and the effects of addiction on adolescent children.
MAAGI also will be selling bracelets for $4 near the front entrance to help raise funds for programs for those in need.
“MAAGI and Lifehouse want to encourage the members of our community to band together in order to stop the growing epidemic of addiction in the Riverbend area,” the press release states. “By putting this disease in the spotlight and refusing to sweep the issue under the rug, our community can drastically reduce the loss of lives to this issue.”
Speakers include Tim Ryan and Chad Sabora, co-founder and vice president of Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery along with Robert Riley II, as well as guest speakers from the Illinois Healthcare Foundation and Heartlinks.
Among the topics, Sabora says he will speak on recovery, policy reform, and eliminating the stigma related to drug addiction.
“This affects everybody, whether you know it or not,” Sabora said. “I was a prosecuting attorney before my addiction, so yes, this can happen to anyone.”
Sabora also heads up the Osiris Project, dedicated to harm prevention through Narcan distribution and needle exchange, and Rebel Recovery, which encourages addicts to use their experiences as a platform for social and political reform.
“Chad has been such a strong force in our battle,” Emery-Lamere said. “He helps us spread the message that there is hope.”
LIFESUPPORT was formed by Brandie West, along with Lifehouse Church Pastor Mike Adams and Kim Hillman.
“This is a support group not just for addicts, but anyone who may need some help and guidance,” West said. “This problem affects the community as a whole, and I feel we are all equally responsible to do our part. This problem is not going away.”
West, herself a recovering addict who says she has been substance-free since 2007, says both the rally and the support group are not just for those in the throes of addiction.
“This is also for families and friends of those touched by addiction,” she said. “We want to emphasize how important it is for them seek help and treatment themselves to work past how the addiction of others may have impacted their lives.
“So many people have been touched by addiction, and not just from overdoses. You have to take into account suicides, car wrecks and other (tragedies) caused by substance problems.”
Together, the prevention team and the church hope to bring two things to the Greater Alton area on Jan. 24 — education and hope.
“We are working with MAAGI to destigmatize the labels surrounding addiction,” West said.
According to Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn, there were 75 overdose deaths in Madison County in 2014, including 22 heroin deaths. Forty-one overdose cases were related to prescription drug abuse.