Overdose awareness: Milwaukee memorial held amid rise

On International Overdose Awareness Day, Tuesday, Aug. 31, fatal drug overdoses remain an ongoing concern in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee County medical examiner said Tuesday that they are investigating two unrelated deaths of toddlers who each died of fentanyl overdoses.

Milwaukee county saw a record high of fatal overdoses in 2020. A memorial event was held Tuesday afternoon to raise awareness and put a stop to that increase in deaths.

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Milwaukee mom Kathy Stadler lost her son to a heroin overdose three months ago. She never thought she'd find herself where she is now.

"It honestly can happen to anyone. Would have never thought this would be in my family," Stadler said. "It is the most painful thing I’ve ever had to go through."

Pinwheel display representing deaths at a downtown Milwaukee International Overdose Day memorial event.

Tuesday, Stadler looked for support at the downtown Milwaukee memorial event.

"Definitely a first step in fixing any problem is having people be aware," said Stadler.

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The Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition hosted the memorial in remembrance of lives lost due to an overdose and provided resources for those coping with substance abuse.

"COVID hasn’t helped with people getting help, and we’re trying to shed some light on some of the services that are available," said David Polachowski with the Milwaukee Fire Department.

International Overdose Awareness Day memorial event in downtown Milwaukee.

MFD has seen a 50% increase in overdoses in the past year. Isolation due to the pandemic is a contributing factor to the high number of fatal overdoses.

"The people that were using before, and now you have the depression and the things coming from COVID and the lockdown and just not having a normal life," Polachowski said. "With that increase, we’re just trying to get people the services they need."

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