Vt. parents to gather to remember children lost to overdoses

Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 4:42 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Thursday is International Overdose Awareness Day and a group of Vermont parents who lost their children to overdoses will be among those holding events to remember those who have been lost.

“We did not know he was using substances at that time. We thought he was in recovery. It was quite a shock,” said Kimberly Blake, whose son Sean died in 2017 from an accidental overdose at the age of 27.

Blake says Sean had a history of mental health issues and they did their best to support him but never expected to be in this position as a parent. “We thought that that was something he had moved on from, it’s something that he had used in the past. He had a long struggle with substance use. He seemed like he was, to us, on that road to recovery,” she said.

Since her son’s death, Blake has been involved with a group of parents called Team Sharing. All the members are parents who have lost a child to an accidental overdose. She says that, sadly, the number of parents joining the group each year seems to grow.

As of the end of May, there have been 95 opioid-related accidental and undetermined deaths among Vermonters, according to the Vermont Department of Health. The department’s Nicole Rau says she hopes Thursday’s events encourage more people to support those in recovery. “One of the top cited reasons that folks were reluctant to go get help was concern about the stigma they may face. We are losing so many Vermonters. Making sure that we are all to the best of our abilities acting in a compassionate way,” she said.

That’s exactly the message Blake wants to pass along to other parents. “Community support is really helpful. It does take a little to kind of put yourself out there, it’s hard. I think all of us that struggled with a child with substance use struggle with our own concerns about judgment,” she said.

Team Sharing will have an event in Burlington’s City Hall Park Thursday from five to seven for anyone that wants to seek help and support.