In January, Frederick County has reported 26 overdoses. In 2018, the total was 331 overdoses, 52 of those overdoses were fatal. And it’s that number Tina Cavin-Johnson and Miki Rakich have a special connection to.

“My brother, Tyler Rakich, passed away February 25, 2018 and then a short six weeks later my son, Raymond cooper, [whom] we called ‘Cooper’, passed away,” Cavin-Johnson explained.

Both Tyler and Cooper died from overdoses of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

Rakich says her brother Tyler dabbled in cocaine use and other drugs, but was looking to enter rehab.

She recalls reaching out to a treatment center for Tyler but being turned away after saying his addiction was for cocaine; Rakich says the center only had room for those with opioid addictions.

Tyler’s death in a Baltimore hospital to opioids was a shock for the tight-knit family.

“On the recent weeks leading up to his passing, I mean he was doing good. In fact, I actually made a phone call to my siblings saying ‘I’m proud of him, I see him turning around now,” Rakich recalled.

Johnson says it was especially hard for Cooper, who was close in age to his uncle Tyler.

“They were just two boys that grew up like brothers. So, I think it was very devastating for him,” Johnson explained.

And only six weeks later, Johnson says Cooper died in a Woodsboro home to the same drug that killed his uncle.

The loss of Cooper was devastating for Johnson who admits she had a hard time getting up and out of her home.

“Some days I can barely get up and show up. And then there’s other days that I do, and I like to try to help others,” Johnson said.

Johnson is now a Frederick County representative for Maryland Heroin Awareness Advocates (MHAA), a statewide group that aims to shed increased light on the opioid epidemic.

Johnson spends time on social media sharing information to the organization’s page on where to seek help for addiction.

And for those families who have lost a child to an overdose, Johnson says “just try to hold on, each day, because your life will become a purpose again, in honor of your child.”

Both Johnson and Rakich say they will continue to speak out about their family members’ stories and bring awareness to the community they say may not believe the problem exists around them.

Johnson says Maryland Heroin Awareness Advocates aims to increase federal funding to tackle the opioid crisis and to increase the number of treatment facilities.

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