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 victims don’t get the emergency medical assistance that they need quickly enough. Although most overdoses occur in the presence of others, people are sometimes afraid of being arrested which often prevents them from calling 911.

Sal was left in a car in Camden that night, alone to die, because someone was too afraid to make the call that could have saved his life. 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 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 Somerdale 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 remove the threat of prosecution for people who call 911 in overdose situations. Just like Sal, each person who is lost to overdose is likely to be someone’s cherished child, sibling, parent or friend. Saving lives should always take priority over punishing behavior, and calling 911 should never be a crime. For these reasons, New Jersey must have a Good Samaritan policy that protects those who seek emergency medical assistance in the event of a drug overdose.

Blake Marchese

Drug Policy Alliance

Trenton , NJ