Overdose victims remembered through memorial tree during the holidaysPosted: 11/28/2018
After Thanksgiving, several community members gathered to decorate a tree near the District Attorney General’s Office. This tree serves a different purpose than the festive trees that fill our community during the holiday season. This particular tree is a memorial for lives lost to our community’s drug epidemic. In 2017, nearly 300 people died in Knox County due to a drug overdose. The number of overdoses countywide increased 33 percent in a single year.
To address the rising number of drug-related deaths in Knox County, District Attorney General Charme Allen helped spearhead the Drug Related Death Task Force in 2017 with Appalachia HIDTA, Knox County Regional Forensic Center, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Knoxville Police Department, and United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Through this inter-agency effort, data is shared to reduce the number of drug overdoses and, ultimately, stop traffickers from supplying dangerous drugs in our community.
The task force began tracking and analyzing these numbers as a way to reduce drug activity in our community by advancing our investigation and prosecution tactics. However, as the number of overdose deaths continued to rise, we have become more aware of the fact that these numbers represent, not only lives lost but, also, grieving families and a community gravely impacted by drug abuse.
Since the Drug Related Death Task Force formed, the District Attorney General’s Office has come to know the victims’ families and see the pain caused by the death of a loved one. This is the fourth year the Office has organized the Overdose Memorial Tree. Family members are invited to hang an ornament in honor of their loved one who passed away.
The holiday season is a particularly hard time for families who have suffered loss and the memorial tree offers them a special way to remember their loved ones. It is important for the families to know they are not alone and it’s also important for us to share their stories to help prevent drug-related deaths in our community.
Tracee Smith, Felony Drug Unit Victim/Witness Coordinator with the District Attorney General’s Office, coordinates the tree and families who wish to participate. The Drug Related Task Force also coordinates a support group for friends and families of overdose victims. For more information, contact Tracee Smith at (865) 215-3875.
If you or a loved one needs help for drug addiction, call The Tennessee REDLINE (1-800-889-9789). The Tennessee REDLINE is a toll-free information and referral line. The purpose of the REDLINE is to provide accurate, up-to-date alcohol, drug, problem gambling, and other addiction information and referrals to all citizens of Tennessee at their request.