Overdose deaths hit 100k in 12-month period

Danette Hopper of New Port Richey wears a cast of her son's thumbprint on a necklace, so he's never far from her heart.

"I just hugged him and kissed him," she said of the moment Jaron Frizalone died in 2017. "I kissed his hand where the needle had been. My whole world just fell apart."

Frizalone died after an 18-month battle with addiction.

"He decided to use one last time," she shared. "He thought he was using heroin but as he found out later, it was 100 percent fentanyl."

READ Pasco high school offers 'safe place' for students battling addiction

For the first time in a 12-month period, which ended in April, more than 100,000 American families went through the same thing. The previous April-to-April period was at 78,000.

Since 2015, the federal government says opioid deaths have more than doubled.

READ Pasco deputies share warning after using Narcan on man overdosing on fentanyl

"They just made bad choices," said Hopper. "They are not bad people. It just breaks my heart to know that there is another mom out there trying to cope with part of her missing."

Hopper and other local groups say ending stigma to get help is one thing, but that more rehab centers are needed.

A vigil is being held Thursday night in Pasco County, where overdoses are off pandemic highs, but still up from around 20 in January of 2017 to 134 last month.

"We need more education for providers to get people into the right services at the right time for the right reason," explained Eve Hosley-Moore of the Pasco County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention.

RELATED: Florida overdose deaths spike 37% during pandemic, CDC data shows

Hopper has begun allowing families of victims to place locks on her fence at home. She wants everyone to know her bright light, Frizalone, is out.

"When he walked in the room, he would just fill it with happiness and laughter," said Hosley-Moore. "If you have someone in your family who is struggling with addiction, that you never give up on them. I have always said, as long as there is a heartbeat, there is hope."

The toll from overdoses is now more than the toll from car crashes and guns combined.

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