COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – People from all walks of life gathered on Aug. 31 to raise awareness about drug overdoses in central Ohio. It was International Overdose Awareness Day, but for those working to spread resources, the fight goes beyond just one day.

So far in 2023, 345 people have died from an overdose in Franklin County. As long as that number is more than zero, people with the Columbus and Franklin County Addiction Plan say they will continue helping people fight addiction.

“Addiction can affect anyone; it has no boundaries when we think of age or race, ethnicity, gender. Anybody can be affected by this unfortunate disease process,” Franklin County Coroner Dr. Nathaniel Overmire said.

Melissa Martel-McConnel learned this the hard way. She lost her daughter to a drug overdose last year just two days before her 19th birthday.

“She tried to make people laugh. She was a great artist when she was little,” Martel-McConnel said. “Those six months leading up to her death were pretty stressful. And I was very worried, and she hid it very well.”

She’s not alone in her loss.

“I lost my cousin to an overdose several years ago. I miss him every day. He was like a brother to me growing up,” Dr. Overmire said.

Rep. Ismail Mohamed added he lost a brother in September 2020. 

“It’s something that personally hits home,” Mohamed said. “The goal of this hopefully is for people to pay attention and to know that it’s not, it’s not a moral failure.”

Addiction is a disease that many are working to fight, by spreading awareness. This includes handing out free Narcan, fentanyl test strips, and giving out information about treatment, recovery and support groups.

“Remember these are your friends and family. And before they had this disease, they had your love and support, they need it throughout this disease,” Administrator over Addiction Services for CPH and Columbus and Franklin County Addiction Plan Andrea Boxill said.

If you or someone you know is struggling, you can call 988 for support. There are also resources for treatment and recovery here.