Moonlight Memorial in Houma to bring awareness to drug overdoses

Organizers are hosting a public gathering next week in Houma to raise awareness about drug overdoses.

The Millie Mattered Moonlight Memorial will be held 7:30 pm June 3 outside Zydeco Harley-Davidson, 1740 Martin Luther King Blvd.

Wearing glow-in-the-dark armbands, gatherers will “illuminate the darkness” by strolling down a lit walking trail to a memorial table with illuminated memory cups bearing the names and dates of overdose victims.

Houma resident Renee Dryden Bertinot, who founded the organization SARAH, or Seeking Action Raising Awareness and Hope, joined forces with another group, Millie Mattered, to host the event.

Bertinot’s organization is named after her daughter, Sarah Beth Pellegrin, who died from an overdose in 2018 at the age of 31. Millie Mattered was created by Lilly Harvey after losing her own daughter, Millie Harvey, to a fentanyl overdose in 2017.

“We heard about her story and she came down during our rally in March,” Bertinot said. “Then we went to her own rally at the state capitol. We both have like interests and are of the mindset that we want to bring the opioid crisis to the forefront so that people realize how detrimental it really is. There is strength in numbers.”

Terrebonne had 40 confirmed overdoses in 2021, with nine other cases pending, according to the Coroner’s Office. Thirty-four of those deaths involved fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid. The parish had 36 drug overdoses in 2019 and 46 in 2020, the Coroner’s Office said.

Overdose deaths in Lafourche increased from 17 in 2019 to 22 in 2020 and 33 last year, the parish Coroner’s Office said. Several cases in Lafourche are pending.

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Louisiana is one of five states that recorded an increase in overdose deaths of more than 50% between 2019 and 2020, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Louisiana saw 1,925 overdose deaths in 2020, 621 more than in 2019.

“People are still dying every day,” Bertinot said. “But we also want to bring hope that people do recover. Addiction is a disease, and we want to end the stigma. We don’t look down on a diabetic or someone with high blood pressure. People don’t want to talk about it, but we believe it has to be talked about. Our mission is to just let people understand what addiction is.”

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Next week’s gathering will feature live music, guest speakers and free Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Berinot there are several misconceptions when it comes to drug overdoses.

“It’s not just addicts who are dying,” she said. “It’s people taking a pill for the first time or getting something from somebody for a headache. That pill could be laced with fentanyl and they die. We have to educate our young people. We can’t be silent.”

For information about the Moonlight Memorial, email milliemattered@gmail.com or visit the Millie Mattered Facebook page.

— Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or at dan.copp@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.

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