Opioid epidemic focus of St. Petersburg rally

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The mood may have seemed festive, but the people gathered at William’s Park in St. Petersburg were there for a serious reason.

Many have lost loved ones to opioids, with names like Fentanyl, Hydrocodone and others.

Judy Ferla

Erin Ferla, 15, of New Port Richey, has good memories of her mother, Judy.

“When I was 10-years-old, she actually passed away from it and it was so hard on me and all my family. It still is today,” said Ferla.

Judy died of an Oxycodone overdose. She kept her addiction from some family members.

Her daughter is working to save others.

“A lot of people don’t want to admit to their problems. They don’t want to admit that their families have issues with it. It’s kind of one of those things, people are kind of embarrassed about, and I think it’s something they need to recognize more,” said Ferla.

On a line strung between trees, people added remembrances of loved ones lost.

The problem of opioid addiction is severe.

“People are dying every day. One hundred forty-four people die a day across the US,” said Rochae Zwicharowski of the Recovery Epicenter.

They’re not all junkies with needles in their arms. They are husbands, wives, sons and daughters.

“There’s no beds available and they’re no funds available. So what we’re doing is, we’re reaching out to the federal government, ‘hey, we need help,’” said Zwicharowski.

Erin Ferla is hoping to save lives.

“Addiction is like a disease. You gotta help somebody with it,” she said.

Organizers are hoping the feds pony up $60 billion over 10 years to pay for treatment centers. The problem is only getting worse.

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