On International Overdose Awareness Day, an Introduction and Call to Action

Written by Kevin Franciotti ’06, Alumni Association Blog Author

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day, a day of great significance for many in the SSDP Family. As your new Alumni Association Blog Author, I have chosen this important day to contribute my first blog post and write about my personal experience.

It’s not often I’m able to be so forthcoming to a sympathetic audience, but this day is particularly meaningful to me because on multiple occasions I came very close to joining the ranks of the people we are honoring. For anyone interested in my story, I previously contributed a post to the SSDP Blog: Recovery and Reform: An Alum’s Journey Back.

Earlier this month, I attended the NYC Overdose Revival in Bronx, New York. I have never been to an event quite like it before; its mixture of religious, political, and cultural themes were centered around the compassion we share for the members of these communities who use drugs. We prayed, we danced, we sang, we listened, and we made our voices heard to those we have elected. We called upon our elected officials to advocate for us, to fight for policies that protect us, and to come together in love and pain. We asked them to honor our pain and grief for those we’ve lost and to support us in not letting our losses be in vain.

Today, on International Overdose Awareness Day I’m honoring: John, Brian, Andrey, Mike, Andres, Danny, Elliot, and Jared. I will never forgive my government for perpetuating the racist policies that thousands have fallen victim to, and I will not rest until the War on Drugs comes to its long overdue end. We must continue to push forward on policies that will save the lives of people who use opioids.

Throughout my service as Blog Author, I am eager to hear your voices. I am eager to work with you to bring your messages to our community. As alumni, we know what it was like to face adversity as drug policy reformers on college campuses, and rather than bowing to pressure to assimilate to practices we opposed, we organized and overcame them. I am eager to share with our fellow alumni association and student members your triumphs, your victories both large and small, as well as the times when ideal outcomes were not achieved, but how you stood up to the challenge and persevered. Please share with us how you’ve grown since starting your careers, what unexpected turns befell you, how you’ve continued to be a lifelong warrior in dismantling the abhorrent War on Drugs, and how you honor that commitment in the workplace, at home, and in your community.

We all need reminders of what we’ve achieved, but more importantly we need reinforcement of those  ideals and experiences that shape our advocacy, our passion for social justice, and our ongoing rebellion against the criminal (in)justice system.

I’m truly honored to be giving back to an organization that connected me with lifelong friends, allies, and comrades. I can be reached via kevin.franciotti@alumni.ssdp.org or, if need be, Facebook Messenger.