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A Day of Hope: Community gathers to remember those affected by opioid epidemic

By Staff | Sep 20, 2019

Rev. G.T. Schramm reads American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr's "Serenity Prayer" with attendees at the Day of Hope Candlelight Vigil on Saturday night. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Although darkness had descended on McMurran Hall’s lawn, flickers of hope could be seen emanating from the attendees of the Day of Hope Candlelight Vigil on Saturday night.

Twenty-six community members attended the second annual vigil, which was held in conjunction with a series of events this month organized by Trinity Episcopal Church’s Opioid Crisis Committee. The committee will also have an informational booth at Shepherdstown Night Out on Saturday and host a free NARCAN training at the War Memorial Building on Thursday at 7 p.m.

“Three years ago, it was 72,000 deaths in West Virginia from overdoses. That’s a lot of people, and it increases every year,” said Rev. G.T. Schramm, who led the vigil. “We have to remember all those that have died from addiction. We treat opioid addiction like it is an illegal offense, rather than the illness it is.

“I hope part of what we do is raising awareness of the issue, as well. The more people that know, the more we can help along the way,” Schramm said, mentioning he has been glad to see awareness grow over the last couple of years in the Eastern Panhandle. “Finally, we’re getting some treatment centers in the Eastern Panhandle. But, despite having an increasing number of treatment centers, they’re all overwhelmed.”

According to Schramm, many people assume those addicted to opioids are young, but that is not the case.

Community members hold up candles and cellphone flashlights, as they sing "Amazing Grace" during the Day of Hope Candlelight Vigil on Saturday night. Tabitha Johnston

“If you talk to the police department, they would tell you of how many well-off people stop off to get drugs along the way,” Schramm said, referring to the illegal drug trade along I-81. “It’s not just a young people problem.”

After giving a welcome to attendees, Schramm led in a prayer and litany, followed by recitation of the “Serenity Prayer,” the lighting of candles and cellphone flashlights and singing of “Amazing Grace.”

“This is important enough to come — in West Virginia, this is a big issue, what’s happening, not just with those who are addicted, but for their families, who are affected by addiction,” said Shepherdstown resident Frank VanHilst. “This [event] raises awareness, because we need awareness to get our legislature to help. [And] general awareness will make people less judgmental.”

For Sing Dahlsen, of Shepherdstown, attending the vigil also reminded her of one culprit behind the opioid epidemic.

“I’m furious at the Sackler family, for transferring $1 billion so they don’t have to pay for their role in the opioid epidemic. The Sackler family hasn’t assumed any responsibility for what has happened,” Dahlsen said about the family who own OxyContin maker, Purdue Pharma. “The pharmaceutical companies are just horrible — the greed of big business. It’s not okay to do what they are doing.”

To learn more about the Opioid Crisis Committee’s events, visit www.shepherdstownchronicle.com/page/content.detail/id/518300/Days-of-Hope-and-Action–Trinity-Episcopal-Church-to-address-opioid-epidemic-throughout-September.