STEUBEN COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) — They were not statistics. They were someone’s child, mother, father, brother, sister, or best friend. On March 6, we remember those who lost their lives to substance abuse.

According to the CDC, overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In 2020, the U.S. surpassed 100,000 overdose deaths, the highest number to date.

In Steuben County, 15 people died due to substance abuse overdose in 2021. In the same year, there were 264 reported overdoses across the county. However, this is only what is being reported. The numbers are likely higher. The majority of overdoses in the county were as a result of heroin use. Fentanyl overdoses were the second-highest contributor.

Annual Black Balloon Day, held on March 6, brings awareness to the lives lost to overdose in the United States and all over the world. Communities everywhere will be hosting special events. Black balloons serve as the symbol for the day representing and commemorating the lives lost to overdose deaths in each community.

The Steuben Prevention Coalition Opioid Committee will also take part in the national remembrance. Black balloons will fly throughout the county and proclamations will be issued by local leaders.

The Steuben Coalition will also host a virtual forum from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. featuring speakers with strong local ties and real time experiences. (The Zoom link to that forum is provided at the bottom of this article.)

One of those speakers is Brandon Beuter from Horseheads, N.Y. Beuter is a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate who works at AIM Independent Living Center in Elmira. He overdosed six times before recovery.

“The hardest part is to battle yourself,” said Beuter. “At 36 years old, I have lost over 50 friends due to the opioid epidemic.”

As a survivor, Beuter now wants to help those still struggling with addiction and opioid abuse.

“I started with just a normal prescription,” said Beuter. “Then I eventually got off [the opioid] with no tapering and I was sick. So, I went to the next best thing. I went to the street and that eventually turned into heroin, IV heroin, and then the progression into fentanyl. I did it all.”

Tragically, Beuter’s fiancée, and the mother of his son, died of an overdose in 2018.

“[She died] the day after I got clean,” said Beuter. “After that I was dealing with the loss and mourning. Then, I was getting back into recovery. We had a beautiful 4-year-old boy, so I’m raising him by myself now.”

Beuter wants those struggling with opioids to know they are not alone.

“The resources are out there and the help is there,” said Beuter. “It is never too late. As long as you are drawing breathe, you still have hope. There is still hope for you and you can change.”

Black Balloon Day Forum Zoom link (7 to 8 p.m. on March 6, 2022)

Meeting ID: 882 0812 8983

Passcode: 825426