International Overdose Awareness Day: Shattering the Chains of Addiction and Stigma

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.

-- HELEN KELLER

Just as its name advocates, International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is observed all over the world to commemorate those who have died from drug and substance abuse. Every year on August 31st, the event is held with the intention of raising voices towards preventing the global epidemic of drug addiction from taking more lives and hurting more families.

Like IOAD, we at Tigger House Foundation use the powers of education and awareness in order to prevent more premature deaths induced by addiction. Tigger House Foundation works tirelessly to spread informative and positive messages of hope to all addicts, with the intention of getting them the proper assistance they need to be on their roads of recovery. For years, we have worked with local hospitals within the Monmouth County of New Jersey to help people suffering from substance use disorder get the effective treatment and counseling required to overcome their afflictions. And just like IOAD, we also highly emphasize the importance of reducing the stigma of substance use disorder and drug-related deaths, to assist in giving the families and loved ones of overdose victims the right amount of peace against any perceived societal negativity towards addiction.

On August 26, 2020, we took to the City Hall of Freehold Township, NJ, days ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day as part of an outdoor ceremony honoring IOAD. One of Tigger House Foundation’s founders, Lisa Stavola, was in attendance to shed light on our organization’s objectives, and pay tribute to her son, Ricky “Tigger” Stavola Jr. Tigger, the namesake of our organization, who was only 25 years old when he accidentally overdosed on opiates in 2013. It was imperative to Lisa that she tell Tigger’s story to the world, and help save other lives in the process. Joining Lisa at the IOAD event was Kait McCarthy, Regional Coordinator for the Coalition of Monmouth County (PCMC), a division of the nonprofit Preferred Behavioral Health Group which organized the event, and Larry Mihlon, former police chief of West Long Branch. Both McCarthy and Mihlon also lost family members to drug overdoses.

On August 31, 2020, our International Overdose Awareness Day event occurred at Count Basie Fields in Red Bank, NJ, which garnered an audience of 75 people. The freeholders proclaimed Monmouth County to be stigma free and many others spoke to advocate for destigmatizing opioid addiction, such as Monmouth County Drug Court prosecutor, Lindsay Ashwal, and Lisa Stavola, one of the founders’ of Tigger House Foundation.  

The main entrance to Count Basie Fields was adorned with purple flags to signify the 99 victims of fatal overdoses in Monmouth County in just the first six months of 2020. Related displays were shown at municipal buildings throughout the county.

Lisa Stavola

We hope that International Overdose Awareness Day is the first of many events that will prove pivotal in our objective. Our involvement in the IOAD of New Jersey was a major source of pride, meeting others who have endured similar heartaches and who share our devotion in making a difference against this global epidemic.