NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A memorial at a Long Island mall is a stark reminder of the opioid crisis and the lives lost.
Health officials hope to make a lasting impression.
With her husband by her side, Sharon Richmond is the latest to add yet another marker to “The Pill Wall,” which is putting a human face on an alarming statistic.
“It represents all the people that struggle so hard and are unable to get the help they need in time,” Richmond said.
The Northpoint mother lost her 25-year-old son two years ago to a drug overdose. His face was carved into a pill Monday morning so he could become a part of a memorial honoring those who died of an opioid overdose. There are 22,000 pills representing each life lost in 2015.
“I am happy it’s here to raise awareness because I think so many people think that enough is being done, when it’s not,” Richmond said.
Roosevelt Field Mall will house the pop-up exhibit until Saturday. Every 24 minutes, the machine carves a new face because every 24 minutes, another American dies from a prescription overdose.
“If somebody comes home and has a conversation about what they saw, if a parent or a child or an educator can use the information here, then we’re winning,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.
It’s part of the National Safety Council‘s latest public education campaign called “Prescribed to death.” Its mission is to combat what officials call the worst drug crisis in recorded U.S. history. More than 3,200 people in New York fatally overdose in 2017. Long Islanders accounted for 20%.
“The likelihood of someone dying from a preventive opioid overdose has eclipsed the odds of dying in a car crash,” said Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.
The memorial also has resources that help visitors both safely dispose of unused pills and facilitate conversations with prescribers about alternatives.
“Patients should be asking their doctors, how could I avoid exposure to opioids?” said Scott Kelley, chief medical officer of Flexion Therapeutics.
A decision that could avoid having another face placed on “The Pill Wall.”
Roosevelt Field Mall is the eighth stop on the memorial’s nationwide tour and the third stop in New York, which is the only state to host it multiple times.