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Henrico foundation's exhibit will 'recognize people who go unseen'

The exhibit was put on display a day before International Overdose Awareness Day
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Posted at 6:08 PM, Aug 30, 2023

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day on Thursday, the McShin Foundation in Henrico County installed its annual exhibit on its front lawn Wednesday remembering those who have died from an overdose.

"It makes me proud that people have a place to come to celebrate the lives of those they've lost to addiction," said McShin's facilities manager Barbie Hunt. "Every time set up, it's like -- I feel so grateful that my name's not on there."

The exhibit is row upon row of white crosses with names written on them by those they left behind. Hunt said along with serving to remember, it also serves as a reminder to people at the recovery foundation.

"They always say jails, institutions, and death. This is the last -- this is the last step right here."

Hunt said she has been in recovery for two years and battling addiction for 40 and said she knows dozens of names that could be added to the crosses.

"Since I've been here in the two years, I know, probably, 16 I was really close with. Just one like two weeks ago," said Hunt. "I'm from Ohio. So, I have no friends left. They're all gone. But I'm here. God's got a purpose for me.

Hunt said that purpose is to show others that it can be done.

"Life is so good today. I mean, it's -- everybody's worthy of a good life and the longer you stay clean, the better life gets," she added.

When it comes to what Virginia is experiencing -- fatal drug overdoses continue to be the leading unnatural cause of death since 2013. While the overall deaths dropped in 2022 -- one quarter into 2023, officials predict a slight increase this year -- from 2,619 to 2,657.

McShin CEO Honesty Liller said it is indicative of the strength of drugs now -- especially fentanyl -- which played a role in over 75% of all deaths last year.

"It's not just about being dope sick or using every single day. It's these drugs that are out there now you literally die and it's hard to come back from," said Liller, who has been in recovery (16 years) longer than she was not (14 years). "I'm completely two different people. I mean, it's just the nature of the beast. You can remember what you did and the things that you did, but, recovery teaches you how to forgive yourself and really love yourself and -- yeah -- celebrate it. I was, like, I'm over 14 years of using and I'm just going keep celebrating."

The theme of this year's international campaign is "Recognize people who go unseen" -- honoring those impacted indirectly by overdoses -- families and friends grieving for the loss of their loved ones, people in the healthcare field working to save people, and even what they call spontaneous first responders -- people who might come across an overdose victim and try to help.

Liller said when it comes to winning the fight against overdoses -- it will take everyone.

"It's really educating the community, but also showing them we're all in this together. This is a community environment, so we have to heal together," said Liller.

The McShin Foundation will hold a candlelight vigil on Thursday night to mark the day and anyone who has lost a loved one to overdose can contribute to the cross display or add to the foundation's memorial garden.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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