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Forum looked to save lives

Speakers from two sides of the opioid epidemic in Steuben County spoke of the devastation substance abuse wreaks during the Steuben Prevention Coalition Opioid Committee’s Black Balloon Day Forum.

Addiction cost one family their beloved son, a promising athlete and scholar; another lost their fiancée and mother.

Those lives were part of the worldwide remembrance of those men and women who died in the claws of unrelenting addiction.

Bob and Nancy Reigelsperger’s son Ryan died penniless at the age of 36, a college graduate living a nomadic life in different states with various jobs. His loving parents tried everything they could to help him fight his addiction – counseling in high school, rehab.

“He always knew the right things to say,” Bob Reigelsperger said. “And they’d let him go.”

He died in a New Orleans motel fleeing the onslaught of Hurricane Erma.

“If his story saves just one life, just one,” Reigelsperger said, his voice choked with emotion and referring to the forum. “It will be worth it.”

In other instances, addicts reach a stage of mental, emotional and physical pain when they use the drugs to kill themselves. “That’s what I did,” Brandon Beuter said. “In fact, after I tried to kill myself I was in the hospital for when they told me my fiancée had died of an overdose.”

The couple had a little boy and Beuter’s goal, as a peer counselor for AIM, is simple: “I want him to be proud of me.”

Stigma is a primary cause for people’s unwillingness to deal with addiction in themselves and others, and understanding is the key, Beuter said.

“It’s like 100 times worse than the flu,” he said. “And they say, ‘Just one little pill’ and it will all go away. What I want people to say is ‘There’s always hope.’” Resources for addicts and those that love them are located online here and here.