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Community and support for families affected by addiction

Alexandra LaJuett places a cross memorializing her brother on a small knoll by Court Street in Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Brett Dahlberg
Alexandra LaJuett places a cross memorializing her brother on a small knoll by Court Street in Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Families and friends of people addicted to drugs marked International Overdose Awareness Day in Rochester by sharing messages of hope and support, and calling for more addiction treatment options locally.

Thursday's event at the city's Martin Luther King Jr. Park drew hundreds of people, including addiction recovery service providers and representatives of the city of Rochester, surrounding towns and counties, and the state’s Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services.

John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” played over a public-address system as Rhonda Broderick took a break from serving pizza. “It’s a spirit of community,” the Irondequoit resident said, explaining that her son is addicted to heroin and she has found solace in meeting parents facing similar situations. “Many of us have lost someone close to us, but we’re all here in support of each other,” she said. “This is like a family picnic to me.”  

Christy Murray added a cross to a small knoll next to Court Street that already held dozens of commemorative crosses, photos and posters. Hers was to memorialize her sister, who Murray said died of a fentanyl overdose in December 2016. “My kids know more than anyone ever should about addiction,” she said. “It’s a disease that can affect anyone. And we need help. We need help.”

Becky Baker, who organized the third annual event with her group S.O.A.R.S., said it grows every year. Baker lost her son, Scot, to an overdose in February 2016. “Today is hard,” she said. “All these people, so many have lost someone. But the support is so good, and so strong. This is a good day, too.”

Brett was the health reporter and a producer at WXXI News. He has a master’s degree from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.