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Washington moms band together, push for change after losing sons to overdoses

Overdose deaths are rising, not only in western Washington, but across the country.

SEATTLE — The most recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows more than 107,000 people died from drug overdoses last year. On Monday, organizations from 24 states came together to remember loved ones and ask for a change in policy.

"This is Andrew when he was, oh, gosh, probably nine with his little dog," said Marlys McConnell. 

McConnell’s son Andrew was a chef in New York. They called him the dancing chef.

“He'd dance around and whip stuff up, and it was amazing. People loved it," McConnell said.

Andrew was 27 years old when he died from an overdose. Seven years later, McConnell is still working to keep her son's memory alive.

“Basically, we're sitting here watching a broken system fail our children and our loved ones for years dying of substance-use-related death," said McConnell.

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McConnell is one of many Washington moms working for the national organization Trail of Truth.

"We want the government to take action and are frustrated by the lack of action," organizers with Trail of Truth said over a Zoom call Monday.

The organization announced a partnership with more than 70 organizations from 24 states. They're asking for immediate access to treatment and nondiscriminatory medical care.

“I feel that he may be here today if these things were more readily available to him," said McConnell.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, there have been 489 drug and alcohol-related deaths in King County so far this year. As of 2021, fentanyl was the number one killer.

“You feel hopeless at times," said Kristie, who requested we don't use her last name. "You feel angry at times because there never seems to be the help he needed when he needed it."

Kristie's 37-year-old son Brandon died in April after using heroin laced with fentanyl. She had struggled since Brandon was a teen to find care that addressed his drug use and mental health.

"The more voices there are, the more chance there is for change," said Kristie.

She is one of the many moms like McConnell who are banding together to make a change nationally. McConnell is planning to head to Washington D.C. in September with Trail of Truth to request a change in policy.

They plan to publicly honor the people that died from overdoses as a way to reduce that stigma.

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