ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) – Drug overdose impacts hundreds of Americans every year. One of those was Lillie Camille Harvey, a local woman who died of a fentanyl drug overdose at Alexandria City Park in 2017.
“Millie was a beautiful, young lady, and she wasn’t a junkie,” said Lilly Harvey, Millie’s mother and founder of the Millie Mattered Overdose and Addiction Advocacy organization. “She made a bad mistake one day like so many people do.”
Her mistake is not an isolated instance in Louisiana. In fact, due to the prevalence of fentanyl-laced drugs circulating communities around the nation, Millie’s story is not uncommon.
“Since the epidemic started, we’ve lost over 10,000 people in our state,” said Harvey. “And after COVID, we became number one with a 53% increase per capita right here in Louisiana.”
One of those people includes 20-year-old Kristen Benoit.
“She was kind and had the biggest heart. She was smart, beautiful,” recalled her mother, Janne Benoit. “She passed away July 4, and one little mistake cost her her life.”
It is for those lives, both those lost and those left behind, that people gathered in Alexandria City Park on July 8, 2022, for the Millie Mattered Moonlight Memorial.
“We need to get together. We need to fellowship,” emphasized Harvey. “We need to come together so that our counsel people, our lawmakers know that we need change. We’re not going away, and we need something done right here in this state.”
Events like the memorial, as well as other overdose awareness events put on by Harvey and her advocacy group, aim to not only bring awareness to the disease of addiction but also come alongside those who are grieving the ones who have died as a result, letting them knowing they can turn their pain into a purpose.
“There’s hope and there’s help,” said Benoit. “And, there’s a lot of people that will support you. And, just like with me, kind of love me through the process.”
Harvey’s work continues even past memorials and awareness events. There is a bigger picture to the work her organization is doing. The first glimpse of that came into view this year when Gov. John Bel Edwards signed ‘Millie’s Law,’ which categorizes the distribution of fentanyl-laced drugs as a crime of violence, increasing fines and prison sentences for perpetrators.
Millie’s Law goes into effect on August 1.
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