Fight against opioid crisis takes center stage at Simi Valley community summit

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (KABC) -- Hundreds of Southern Californians gathered in Simi Valley Monday and shared gut-wrenching personal stories on how the opioid crisis has devastated their lives.

Close to 700 people packed the Ronald Reagan Library during an opioid crisis summit, put on by the Drug Enforcement Administration, where they learned about the alarming trends and the dangers of opioid abuse.

Officer Gene Colato with the Simi Valley Police Department took the stage at the summit, addressing the crowd with this staggering statistic that has hit every part of America: 75% of all drug-related deaths are caused by opiates.

It's something that Colato knows first hand after an incident where he helped save a man who overdosed on opioids who turned out to be someone he knew.

"I hear the name and it rings a bell. This is a close family member to me. I didn't recognize him on the ground, his face was blue and everything else. I never thought it would happen to me, never," Colato said.

That was the common theme at the summit.

Becky Savage used her family's heartbreaking overdose story to try and save others. She lost both of her teenage sons on the same night.

"They were both attending a graduation party. Somebody brought a bottle of pills and were passing them out. And they decided to experiment that night and neither of them woke up the next day," she said.

Several other people shared their stories in hopes of starting more conversations about the nationwide crisis.

Those severity of the crisis is alarming for those who have battled for their sobriety, such as Brandon Novak.

"You're seeing 165 people a day die as a direct result of an opioid overdose. A day. That's worse than the Vietnam War, that's worse than peak of the AIDS outbreak and the sad thing is those 165 deaths that will occur today are 100% preventable," Novak said.
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