6th annual candlelight vigil held honoring lives lost to addiction

Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 9:13 AM AKST
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - The MyHouse Mat-Su Homeless Youth Center, in partnership with True North Recovery and the Mat-Su Opioid Task Force, hosted the sixth annual candlelight vigil Tuesday honoring local community members who lost their lives to addiction.

“We are here to speak names of those people we have lost,” MyHouse Vice President Michael Carson said. “Even though they’re gone, we want to remember them. We especially want to remember their families. And we want to let their families to know — as you can see tonight — that they’re not alone.”

Carson is also the recovery specialist for MyHouse Mat-Su. At least 400 names of those who have died of drug overdoses were read and remembered during the vigil.

“I think for the people that show up that have lost somebody, I think it’s healing,” John Green said. Green is a founding member of the Mat-Su Opioid Task Force and founder of the candlelight vigil.

“I think for a lot of people sometimes, this is the first time they’ve been around somebody else that knows how they feel. It’s an opportunity of fellowship and to be able to share their struggle with somebody else that understands. It also brings about awareness, I think, to know that they’re not alone. So for me personally, as difficult as it is to read every name on that list, it’s also healing.”

Green started the vigil six years ago after his daughter Kellsie died from heroin withdrawal in the Anchorage jail.

“The first year we did this, there were 42,000 people in the United States that died of opioids,” Green said. “... Last year, we lost 109,000 people.”

Green noted that while the number of people lost to opioids has gone up, the attention that these deaths have received from the public has gone down.

Carson also recommended that people watch Dead on Arrival, a documentary on YouTube about the dangers of fentanyl.