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Memorial of 1,000 crosses erected to raise awareness about addiction resources

A display of 1,000 crosses stands as a memorial for Alaskans lost to addiction and substance misuse outside the Loussac Library on Sept. 18, 2020.
A display of 1,000 crosses stands as a memorial for Alaskans lost to addiction and substance misuse outside the Loussac Library on Sept. 18, 2020.(Daniella Rivera // Alaska's News Source)
Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 8:00 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A group of local recovery advocates is hosting an awareness event to connect Alaskans to resources as overdose deaths are on the rise.

A 30-foot, portable memorial holding 1,000 crosses stands outside the Loussac Library, bearing the names of Alaskans who have died due to drug overdose. Some of the crosses have been left blank for people to add the name of a loved one to the display.

Under a tent, volunteers with the David Dylan Foundation and REAL About Addiction are standing by to help connect visitors with resources for treatment, detox and peer to peer connection. They’re also offering Narcan training.

“We have people that are actually here with a heart that have compassion that are here to reach out and help them connect,” said Karen Malcolm-Smith, one of the event organizers.

According to the state’s Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention, there were 22 synthetic opioid overdose deaths in Alaska from January 1 through June. Twenty-one of those deaths were associated with fentanyl.

During that same period in 2019, there were 11 synthetic opioid overdose deaths, and eight were associated with fentanyl.

“Addiction is a disease of isolation and loneliness and in our core, there’s such a feeling of separation from the rest of the world,” said Malcolm-Smith.

She said the pandemic has made it even harder for people struggling with addiction to connect with people who can help them; the event is aimed at changing that.

Malcolm-Smith said she lost her son to an accidental overdose in 2017. Knowing how hard it was to navigate the system and get him help, she said the group has taken the daunting, several-page process she once used and boiled it down to three simple steps.

“I guess what we’re trying to say is, let us take you by the hand and walk you through it,” she said.

The event takes place on Friday and Saturday at the Loussac Library from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., then next weekend it will appear during the same time at the Delaney Park Strip on Sept. 25, 26 and 27.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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