DRUG CRISIS: Rally on Sammi's 25th birthday


SCRANTON (WOLF) -- The idea is to give addiction and its treatment a voice.

A rally was held outside the Lackawanna County courthouse this afternoon, organized by the parents of a Scranton woman who died from a drug overdose.

The motto for the Forever Sammi Foundation is to "stop the whispers." They want to talk about addiction and help stop it, just as Sammi Henehan tried to do in her life before she relapsed.

One of her friends spoke about Sammi tonight, saying every time she does, it saves someone, and that way, Sammi herself is still saving lives.

"With her non-stop cheerful energy which later led to her claiming the title of Miss Toddler of Northeast Pennsylvania...," says Commissioner Laureen Cummings.

As a county commissioner read through Sammi Henehan's life story on a proclamation, the pain hit for her mother, who started crying.

Sunday would have been Sammi's 25th birthday. But last April, she died from a heroin overdose in a Moosic motel.

"I would have much rather been planning just her birthday party and not a rally, so I try to look at it, in the spirit of Sammi, that we're gonna have the biggest birthday party in the state of Pennsylvania," says dad Marty Henehan.

"Hi, I'm Molly and I'm an addict and an alcoholic," says Sammi's friend Molly Stone on the podium.

Sammi was sober for three years before relapsing. Her friend spoke about how Sammi helped her.

"She told me you're either gonna do this or you're gonna die, and she brought me to her house and I was hanging out with her and of course I had no validation, so she was my only friend, OK. So, I'm hanging out with her and she said Mol, we're going to a meeting," says Stone.

Stone says she'll never forget Sammi coming in a car to get her when she was in trouble, or that first meeting they went to.

"People came up and they hugged me and they told me that they loved me, and I looked at her like she was crazy, and she told me it was true," says Stone. "From there, she made me get a home group. She made me get a sponsor."

"If someone has a problem with addiction or something, they don't want to talk about it," says Justin Shoemaker from Scranton. "They're kind of embarrassed, but bringing it out into the open is is the best way for people to find help and get help, and acknowledging the problem is the best thing."

Shoemaker says he moved here from Williamsport to work on recovery from alcohol and other problems. He also met Marty and Stacy Henehan, and has been sober for six months.

"Alcoholics and drug addicts are also ridiculed because of the disease they have and it makes it even more difficult for people to get sober," says Evan Glass, who dated Sammi.

Scranton's police chief says the latest deadly heroin overdose killed a 35-year-old man on Saturday. He's working on a new approach.

"Rather than arresting them, we will get them into treatment or push them into treatment, so we call it our Contract for Recovery," says Chief Carl Graziano, drawing applause.

A judge who has a drug court wants to double it, and says reviving people with Narcan isn't enough.

"If you aren't offered the proper treatment and care there at the hospital there at the moment of need, then you are not being brought back to life. You are brought back only to breathe," says Lackawanna County President Judge Michael Barrasse.

"I do hereby acknowledge and proclaim July 16, 2017, as Sammi Henehan Day in Lackawanna County," says Cummings, reading from a proclamation she gave to the Henehans.

Marty Henehan says they hope to continue this rally each year and are helping people with their foundation.

One victory mentioned today at the Second Annual Addiction Awareness Rally was a man who was referred to go to Salvation Army tonight.

Chief Carl Graziano says they are waiting to hear back on a federal grant for the program to provide more assistance to those with non-violent drug offenses, rather than just jailing them.

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