On June 11, 2018, Andrea Thomas was galvanized into action. That’s when the Grand Junction, Colorado woman learned that her 32-year-old daughter, Ashley Romero, had died of fentanyl poisoning after taking a counterfeit Percocet. “Like so many others,” Thomas says, “Ashley was not aware of what she was taking.”
Working together with D’Ann Hopkins, who lost a brother to suicide in March 2018, Andrea channeled her grief into establishing the Voices for Awareness Foundation, an organization that aims to raise awareness about substance abuse, addiction prevention, recovery, and counterfeit drugs, as well as bring awareness to mental health issues relating to self-harm.
On May 1, 2019, Voices for Awareness launched their 2019 Awareness initiative, beginning with a proclamation from Mesa County, Colorado for Mental Health Awareness Month. Their efforts will continue with presentations throughout May, culminating in the first VOICES FOR AWARENESS Conference, which will be held at Colorado Mesa University on July 27, 2019. At the event, which will be free to the public, a panel of lawmakers, state representatives, local and federal law enforcement, educators and other Colorado professionals to listen to the public’s concerns and their stories of loss. Speakers from organizations across the country will educate attendees about ways to identify and address counterfeit drugs, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide—not only in Mesa County, but nationwide. Local outreach organizations will share their resources with attendees.
Later that day, Voices for Awareness will sponsor the Fight for Awareness, a professional boxing match hosted by Rival Boxing Gym of Grand Junction, in which fighters from all over the state of Colorado will dedicate their match to a loved one lost to substance abuse or suicide. This pro-am event has been made possible through generous donations from local businesses and other organizations in Colorado. Tickets may be purchased here.
Thomas is fully committed to bringing news about these problems to Grand Junction, and nationwide:
In the last two years we have lost several to counterfeit drugs...[but] did not learn of the counterfeits until many were already gone. Grand Junction has also been named the “Suicide Capital of America.” The counterfeits and mental health issues need to be discussed. By bringing attention to these issues we can empower the public with knowledge and resources for help. Awareness is key to prevention.