By LINDA WOODLAND
FOR THE COURIER

RYAN PURKEY ties a purple ribbon on a Main Street lamppost last Friday to spotlight International Overdose Awareness month. A handful of people decked downtown Fostoria with 75 of the purple pennants to honor loved ones lost because of accidental overdoses and those still fighting addiction. (Photo provided)

FOSTORIA — As drug addiction continues to grow throughout the nation, more and more lives are lost to accidental overdoses.

In Ohio alone, opioid overdoses were responsible for more than 500,000 years of life expectancy lost during a seven-year period, according to a study conducted by The Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health.

Many area residents have friends and family battling addiction. And many have lost loved ones to accidental overdoses.

Meredith Breech is one of those Fostoria residents.

“I have lost quite a few loved ones through drug overdose,” she said.

To bring more awareness to accidental overdoses, Breech and a handful of friends got together last Friday and tied about 75 purple ribbons throughout Fostoria’s downtown. She said Mayor Eric Keckler was supportive of the idea and agreed to leaving the ribbons up throughout September.

“After losing so many people close to me to addiction and to heroin overdose, it’s something really close to my heart,” Breech said, adding that this is the second year she has covered Main Street in the purple pennants.

“Maybe next year we will have a better turnout and maybe it could be something that’s done citywide and not just up and down Main Street,” she said.

Breech kicked off the month-long awareness tribute by participating in Rachael’s Ride on Aug. 11.

The event marks the passing of 22-year-old Rachael Sarreshteh of Fostoria, who succumbed to her addiction on Aug. 14, 2016. According to previous news reports, she battled her drug dependence for three years, starting with the prescription painkiller Percocet before trying heroin.

This year, more than 200 motorcycles participated in the all-day event to promote awareness, education and prevention of heroin addiction. The ride is intended to remember and celebrate the lives of those who have lost their fight with addiction.

Ohio is among the top five states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

On average, about eight people die each day in Ohio due to unintentional drug overdose, the Ohio Department of Health reports.

There were 13,059 Ohio deaths from opioid overdose during the seven-year period (2010-2016) of the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health study. That’s about the population of Fostoria.

“It’s hard to get statistics that are city-specific. It’s usually county and just because of coroners’ reports and so forth, those numbers are slow coming, which doesn’t help the issue,” Breech said.

In 2016, unintentional drug overdoses caused the deaths of 4,050 Ohio residents, a 32.8 percent increase compared to 2015 when there were 3,050 overdose deaths, the Ohio Department of Health reports.

In that same year, the state issued an opiate overdose alert for Seneca County in November when there were 10 overdose deaths within a 48-hour period.

To battle the addiction epidemic, there are many rehab and recovery programs throughout the area, Breech said, naming Richie Webber, founder of Fight For Recovery in Sandusky and Rigel Recovery Services in Tiffin. Closer to home, there is Firelands Counseling and Recovery, 122 W. Center St.

“I’m just trying to do my part,” Breech said. “I’m tired of losing friends and loved ones at such a young age.”

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