More than five years after she died from taking a pill laced with fentanyl, Maddy Mieschberger still has a seat at the table.
“We take this picture to every family function so she’s there,” said Tracy Mieschberger, pointing to a large photograph of Maddy, her smiling 19-year-old daughter, at a Thursday night candlelight vigil in Deer Park for those lost to drug overdoses.
“She has a seat at the table at Thanksgiving, at Christmas," Mieschberger said. "She’s always there.”
As for his daughter's smile, said Maddy's father, Kevin Mieschberger, it "lit up everything."
The Lindenhurst couple were among 60 people gathered Thursday night at Geiger Park for National Overdose Awareness Day, an event to educate people about the scourge of drug overdoses, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blamed for more than 100,000 deaths in 2021 nationally. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be added to illegal drugs or fake prescription drugs, has emerged in recent years as the cause of many deadly overdoses.
“Today is a somber day, “ Valerie St. Bernard, the founder and president of the Deer Park Drug Prevention Coalition, which organized the vigil, told the assembled group. To tackle the problem of drug overdoses, society needs to reduce the stigma of drug use that prevents people from seeking treatment, St. Bernard said.
“We want to stand beside those who lost somebody to overdoses,” she said. “We want to strip away the stigma.”
The New York State Dept. of Health advises people who use drugs, or who know someone who does, to protect against fentanyl overdoses by carrying naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdosing and by testing drugs using test strips, that detect the presence of the drug. Naxolone can be obtained at many pharmacies on Long Island. State residents can order the test strips online at https://mattersnetwork.org/request-test-strips/.
Tracy Mieschberger, 53, said that she had never heard of fentanyl until her daughter Maddy died from taking it. She said her daughter had been an athlete but struggled with anxiety in her teenage years and was trying to figure out her path in life.
The Mieschbergers remembered their daughter Thursday night with her photograph.
“Just to honor our daughter,” her mother said. “Let her face be seen. She cannot be forgotten. She deserves to be remembered.”