Black Balloon Day highlights ongoing fight against opioids


Those who've died as a result of opioid abuse were remembered Wednesday with black balloons. Some of those black balloons were posted around Berks County as part of a national campaign.

"The black is an easy way to signify mourning and loss," said Berks County Black Balloon organizer Patrick Murray.

Fourteen years ago, his brother, Christopher Murray, died from an opioid overdose. Murray remembers getting the news.

"I struggled with how to cope with it, how to come to terms with it," Murray recalled.

Two years ago, Murray created the Berks County Black Balloon group. It's part of a national effort --every March 6 -- to shine light on the opioid fight and remember those who have died.

"We wanted to do something that broke the stigma," said Murray.

The number of opioid deaths in Berks County has dropped in the last year, but some said that's not a big enough victory.

"We can't point to anyone thing and say, 'Aha, this is what fixed this problem.' First of all, the problem isn't fixed," said Stanley Papademetriou with the Council on Chemical Abuse.

Better access to treatment and Narcan kits, which can save someone who's overdosing, have helped. The public has more access to the kits, and 25 police departments and first responders in Berks have them on hand.

"With regard to the police, since the beginning of January, we had 12 calls as of yesterday of saves," said Papademetriou.

Murray said a lot has changed since his brother died, and he's hopeful there's more to come.

"You chip, chip, chip away at it. Eventually, that big boulder will come down to a pebble," Murray said.

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