Gravesend rallies to bring attention to drug addiction and overdose deaths

August 30, 2016 Helen Klein
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A month after her son Rocky died of a drug overdose at the age of 25, Mzia Bekuradze attended an anti-drug rally meant to bring attention to the numerous drug overdoses and fatalities experienced by teens and young adults in southwest Brooklyn and organized by Trinity Tabernacle of Gravesend, East First Street and Neck Road.

“It still hurts,” said Bekuradze, dressed in black, who held a photo of her son. “There’s still pain. It’s a different feeling. I can’t explain. He was so sweet and so warm. He told me every day, ‘My beautiful mom, I love you so much.’ I miss him so much.”

Rocky – who was depressed because of the difficulties he had had trying to get his green card (he had come to the United States from Georgia at age nine with his mother, who has been a citizen since 2003) — was addicted to heroin, and had been in a treatment program until about a week before his death, but was “discharged because of his behavior,” Bekuradze said, adding that he had apologized and asked to be reinstated, but by the day of his death had heard nothing.

Rocky’s death was in fact “the catalyst” for the rally – held in the early evening of Thursday, August 25, according to organizer Frank Livoti, a parishioner and local businessman.

Livoti, who said he has been “free from drugs for about 20 years,” knew Rocky and had tried to help him. The last time he saw him, Livoti said “he look fantastic and said he was doing well,” so it was a huge shock, he recalled, to learn that the young man had died.

“It devastated me,” Livoti confessed. “I sat down and cried.” He also found himself asking, “How many more?” He posted the question on Facebook and got an “overwhelming” response, leading Trinity Tabernacle to “put together the march and rally.”

Extremely frustrating to Livoti is the relative invisibility of the threat. While terror attacks, he noted, garner months of headlines, since January of this year, he said, “within the five boroughs, there have been over 400 deaths attributable to opiates, and it’s not even a little blip on people’s radar. Where’s the outrage? Everyone is concerned about ISIS, but our children have more of a chance of being killed by drugs than ISIS.

“We’ve been desensitized to overdose deaths,” he went on. “It used to be shocking. Now, we feel sad but everything goes back to normal after. That’s what we’re afraid of.”

Over 300 bracelets – some purple symbolizing overdose deaths, and some red symbolizing addiction – were given out at the rally, and people are still wearing them in the neighborhood, said Livoti, adding “We want to stoke the fire while it’s still hot.

Since the march, Livoti said, he has been contacted by seven people – six with opiate addictions and one with an addition to crack cocaine – who have asked for help, and he is working now to get them placed in appropriate programs. “It’s heartbreaking to see people overcome with addiction,” he said.

“I hope everyone wakes up,” said Bekuradze, contending that there was visible drug dealing on neighborhood streets. “The politicians, the doctors who write prescriptions, people on the street who don’t say anything. If everyone would do something, maybe our kids wouldn’t die.”

“One of the biggest lies is that there’s nothing we can do,” agreed Livoti.

For more information or for help with a drug addiction issue, contact Trinity Tabernacle Church at 718-998-7827.

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