Stories from the Movement
My name is Blake Marchese. As a teacher, I strive to educate and care for my students to my fullest capacity. As a sister, I showed the same care and support to my brother, Salvatore, when he was struggling with drug addiction. I adored and loved Sal, so much so, that the two of us battled his addiction together as a team. We knew that his success would depend on the love and support of his family. It was so heartbreaking when, at his most vulnerable times, Sal was turned away from numerous treatment programs that we had worked together to find.
Sal’s most crucial moment of need came on the night of September 23, 2010, when he lost his precious life to a drug overdose. Drug overdose deaths are preventable. Overdose deaths usually happen because those at risk don’t have access to naloxone and victims don’t get the emergency medical assistance that they need quickly enough. Naloxone can rapidly reverse the respiratory depression that results from an opioid overdose. After a simple training, naloxone can be safely administered by laypeople, either by injection or with a nasal spray. Unfortunately, naloxone is only available by prescription and it hasn’t been widely accessible to those in a position to immediately help in an overdose situation, such as peers and family members.
Sal was left in a car in Camden the night he overdosed, alone to die, because someone was too afraid to make the call that could have saved his life and naloxone wasn’t available. As a result, my Mom lost her son, me a brother, and my nephew his father. It breaks my heart to know that Salvatore, Junior will grow up without his Daddy and that if someone had access to naloxone or sought medical help for Sal when he was overdosing, he might be here with us today.
My brother Sal was one of the most giving, caring, loving men I have ever met in my life. He would have done anything for anyone at any given time. These characteristics are probably why Sterling High School in Magnolia awarded a technical school scholarship in my brother’s name last year - The Salvatore Marchese Memorial Scholarship. While this scholarship will help honor my brother’s memory and provide education to a deserving student, something that is near and dear to my heart, I want to do something more.
The best way that I know to honor Sal’s legacy is to raise awareness about overdose prevention in New Jersey and urge elected officials to expand access to naloxone. Just like Sal, each person who is lost to overdose is likely to be someone’s cherished child, sibling, parent or friend. New Jersey must have a comprehensive response to prevent drug overdose deaths. A key element in that response is expanded access to naloxone. For these reasons, New Jersey must pass Assembly Bill 3095/Senate Bill 2082 to provide legal protection from civil or criminal liability to those who prescribe or administer naloxone to those at risk for drug overdose.