Mother creates Opioid Overdose Awareness March in hopes for change

Posted at 9:10 AM, Mar 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-23 23:26:12-04

Heroin kills.

Everyone knows this, in yet more children than ever are getting addicted. The Harford County Sheriff's Office confirmed in 2017 so far, heroin related overdoses have killed more people than car crashes and violent crimes combined.

It's an epidemic that Harford County families are getting loud about, and now they're calling on Washington to act.

Mother Tracy Martin created what she hopes to be the Annual Opioid Overdose Awareness March, that will be in front of the White House on March 26.

She lost her son Aaron Starrs at 21 years old. Growing up, she said he was a loving soul, he would bring friends soup if they were sick, and drive them wherever they needed to go. 

All she has left are memories, in photos, a thumbprint she wears around her neck and his birth and death certificate.

"It makes me happy to talk about him," Martin said tearfully. She remembers him as a chubby boy who loved video games growing up.

In high school he grew into himself, and joined the football team.

"After he lost all his weight from joining the football team he got back in the car and we headed down her long driveway, back onto Gran Nursery Road and he said, Mom the fat kid finally won! And I said she's finally going to go out with you? He said more than that, she wants to be my girlfriend," Martin said he liked this girl since fourth grade and believed they would get married one day.

But one night changed those plans. At a party, Aaron hit a crossroads. A friend offered him pills to "get the party started."

"[He would] get grandma's pills or somebody's pills and you know everybody would try one," Martin said it was part of the scene in Harford County.

The same friend then brought heroin. "[He] said oh don't listen to what everybody's saying, it's a small amount you'll never get hooked on it and that was it... The feeling was like no other and when you're not on it, life is terrible for them," Martin said crying.

That was in April of 2014. Martin tried everything to save her youngest and only son. They moved to Pennsylvania where he went to rehab. He was discharged eight days later and now had a new drug network, so she sent him to her father in Virginia. The cycle started over again.

Then, Aaron went to his father back in Maryland, and things were looking up. He got a job working with UPS, and Martin begged his father not to give him a car.

Aaron got the car, and shortly after attended his friend, Jordan Roche's, funeral. Roche died from a heroin related overdose.

Martin thinks that's what triggered Aaron's relapse.

On December 16, 2015 Aaron told his dad he loved him as he went to bed. The next morning, his dad found him in his bedroom, gone.

"He saw the light was on but there was a shadow of light being blocked and when he tried to get the door open, Aaron had been up against the door," Martin started to sob. She continued, "Fentanyl is a very ugly drug," she said between breaths, "you won't just find your child face down or dead, you will find them.... they bleed out."

Now she lives with the pain and doesn't know if it will ever dull, but she found an outlet and is aiming straight for lawmakers.

Her march starts at 10 a.m. in front of the White House and she has this message for our Commander in Chief, "We cannot afford to lose anymore children, we cannot have anymore families destroyed, we need tougher laws on the dealers, we need tougher laws on the doctors that are writing out prescription opiates."

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention just released a study showing 144 people died everyday in the U.S. from opiod overdoses in 2015. The number of deaths has tripled from 1999 to 2014 and have no signs of slowing down.
"I carry this with me all the time. so my outlet is to reach out to other people, other parents in the same position, and band together with other organizations to continually step up and say it's not going away," Martin said.
She says they're expecting more than 100 people at the march, and says if it is a success she will do it again next year.

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