LOWVILLE, N.Y. (WWNY) - “We Care, End Stigma” is written on the Lowville Town Hall Theater in honor of Overdose Awareness Day.
It’s a message that means a lot to Amber Yancey.
Last September, Amber lost her son Keegan Willis to a drug overdose. He was 25 and about to become a father.
“I was devastated last year and was very raw at the time but I am starting to be able to function more normally now and I don’t want him to have died in vain,” she said. “I want other people to know about it and understand there is help out there.”
Help is what the Overdose Awareness Alliance of Lewis County wants people to know about, especially with a rise in overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You’re not alone,” said Cassie Forbus, who’s with the United Prevention Coalition of Lewis County. “Sure, there are meetings online, but we can help you find resources here in your community to really come together and recognize there are people who have the same issues everywhere.”
Along with battling addiction comes battling stigma. Amber says it’s time to stop labeling those, like her son, who have struggled.
“People think down about ‘oh, that druggie,’ that’s not who he was,” she said. “That’s not who he was. He was much more than that. He was a very talented young man, caring, giving. I had hundreds of people come out to his funeral and give condolences and tell me how much Keegan meant to them.”
With a reminder of Keegan close to her heart, Amber plans to continue to spread her own message. She’s holding a 5K in Carthage
to raise awareness of addiction on September 22, which is the anniversary of Keegan’s death.