WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 46 million people battled substance abuse in 2021.
94 percent of them did not receive any kind of treatment.
"So many times in life, how I see you or how I respond to you will determine how I treat you. So many times we treat those with addictions as less than and they walk this journey alone," said Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough.
In 2019, Kimbrough founded the "You will never walk alone: addiction awareness event."
The annual gathering brings the community, local law enforcement, and local resources together to fight the stigma associated with addiction.
"Addiction touched my family, and so from that it means awareness not only to what's happening, but it strikes close to me to realize that I have a message. I have a voice, and we have to change the narrative," said Kimbrough.
"As a person in long-term recovery, I want people to know that if you were struggling with addiction or substance abuse, disorders, there is help available and you can recover," said Darrell Boyles, the Chief Operations Officer for the Addiction Recovery Care Association.
His organization was one of many at the event sharing hope for those who need it.
Boyles says overdose deaths are the highest they've ever been in the US.
"People are scared to get help because they are embarrassed about addiction and there's a negative stigma attached to addiction. We want people to know that they don't have to be embarrassed about that," said Boyles.
Families brought pictures and posters of loved ones who fell into the grips of addiction, being a voice for the voiceless with the hope of saving lives.
"At the end of the day when we bring awareness to something, that's when we begin to address the problem. If we want transformation, we have to have participation and all we're doing is doing our part to participate," said Kimbrough.
For more on resources on substance abuse or mental health, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association 24 hours a day at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).