WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – As the battle over this epidemic continues — communities throughout western Massachusetts are honoring loved ones who have lost their battle to the disease. Many people opening up for the first time.

It was a moment of reflection in Westfield’s Park Square – to remember those who have died from an overdose and acknowledge the grief of family and friends left behind. The city’s health department hosting an overdose awareness vigil on International Overdose Awareness Day to put an end to the stigma against substance abuse.

22News spoke with Mark Jachym, Springfield’s Community Outreach Coordinator, who said “Last year we had over 107,000 people die and something like this what we want to do is acknowledge, show respect for the folks who have passed and basically bring the topic to the forefront.”

Pittsfield, Ware and Westfield are cities that saw noticeable spikes in opioid overdoses in 2021 all increasing by at least 20-percent. Over the last five years overdoses in Western Massachusetts have increased by 64-percent.

Irivary’s substance abuse has affected his relationship with his two sons. He attended the vigil for support – hoping one day he can have that bond that he never had growing up with his own father.

“I did a lot of things that I am not proud of due to my disease,” said Denie Irivary who has been fighting his addiction for more than 30 years.

“Someday I’ll be able to have that father-son relationship that I never had. and that is what inspires me to go forward and knowing that maybe someday my sons are going to be able to come back into my life,” said Irivary.

Opioid-related overdoses are the leading cause of death and the United States ranks number-one in the world. Vigil goers opening their hearts to the people left behind — and to those still struggling — hoping for a brighter future.

“If they think someone is struggling, let’s talk about it. be open about it. No stigma, no judgements, nothing like that,” said Irivary.