By Kelly Werthmann
DENVER (CBS4) – In just five years, heroin overdoses in Colorado have gone up by 350 percent, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Most of those cases involve people 24 years old or younger. One Colorado mom is trying to change that with an event in honor of her late son.
For the fifth year in a row, Chris Lazarus has organized the EPIC 5K in memory of her son, Matt.
“Epic is ‘Every Person Initiates Change,’” Lazarus said. “If it weren’t for Matt, this wouldn’t be happening.”
Matt died in January 2012 from a mixture of heroin and cocaine, his mom said.
“Back then nobody talked about it,” Lazarus told CBS4.
That’s what Lazarus wants to change. Despite the difficult topic, she wants more families to be more aware and discuss the dangers of drugs. Money raised from the 5K go toward education programs across Colorado. Those programs are critical, according to former North Metro Task Force Member Lynn Riemer, who speaks on the topic at schools across Colorado as well as the country.
“Money is really needed in education and treatment, because if you get rid of the demand then there won’t be a supply,” Riemer said.
Dawn Keller attended the EPIC 5K for the first time Sunday morning. She lost her son just weeks ago to a heroin overdose.
“Cole was a great kid,” she said of her late 19-year-old son. “He used to tell me, ‘Mom, because I don’t shoot it and I don’t ingest it, I’m not going to die from heroin.’ And unfortunately he was wrong.”
Riemer said more education is needed on treatment options, too.
“We need to start talking about substance abuse, mental health and addiction and all that because it is treatable and there is a lot of help out there,” Riemer told CBS4.
And that help is made more aware thanks to mothers like Lazarus.
“There’s got to be something good that comes out of such a terrible event and so that’s my goal,” she said.
For more information on the EPIC 5K and how you can help visit: actondrugs.org.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 Weekend Morning News and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.