HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — August 31 marks International Overdose Awareness Day, a time to remember those who lost their lives to substance use disorders. Families joined lawmakers at the State Capitol Wednesday for a memorial ceremony.

“You all are proof that their memories live on,” Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith said.

Families brought posters, pictures, flowers and other mementos to remembering just some of the lives lost to drug overdose.

“He was a human being, and shouldn’t be remembered for the disease,” Michelle Creasy said.

Creasy lost her son Jeremy to a fentanyl overdose in 2018.

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“His smile could light up a room. He was the life of every party,” she said. Creasy added her son loved playing sports and dressed “like he was in an American Eagle ad.”

He was just 27 when he died.

“He loved the Raiders and we have that actually, the Raiders emblem on his tombstone,” Creasy said.

Creasy said her son struggled with his mental health and started self-medicating at 14.

“That pill turned to marijuana and then from marijuana, it went to heroin,” she said.

Creasy joined dozens of other families Wednesday, marking International Overdose Awareness Day by sharing their personal stories. It is something she did not do while her son was alive and struggling with his addiction.

“I would hope that he’s proud,” she said. “We didn’t reach outside of our family due to the shame and stigma, we were afraid what people would think.”

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Creasy is not just a grieving family member. She is also the founder of Jeremy’s Journey, an organization trying to reach kids and families before it’s too late. Creasy said she started it after Jeremy’s death in an effort to prevent other families from going through the same grief.

“It’s my passion and what I think about 24/7,” she said.

Her work is more important than ever after the pandemic.

“There are increased mental health concerns, specifically increased suicide rates,” Secretary Smith said.

Overdose deaths in Pennsylvania jumped 15 percent in 2020, rising again in 2021.

“We have to keep telling our stories,” Creasy said.

Creasy said she wants to let people know they are not alone.

“If that person can find hope, maybe I can find hope too,” she said.

Pennsylvania has a hotline for people dealing with substance use disorders to get connected with resources and treatment. The Get Help hotline number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs estimates the state has seen over 2,000 overdose deaths so far in 2022. They hope continuing to share resources with families will help slow the trend.