By David Highfield

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The number of fatal drug overdoses has gone way up in Western Pennsylvania in recent years, but a mother who has a very personal story to tell is hoping to make a difference.

“She was funny, and she wanted kids,” said Michelle Schwartzmier of Ross.

She’s talking about her daughter, Casey.

“And she loved animals, and I mentioned things like that in the obituary,” Schwartzmier said.

Casey died a year ago this month of a heroin overdose, one day before she was to enter treatment.

A week before her death, Casey asked her mom that if something happened, to write an honest obituary. That request came after she was inspired by an obituary that revealed someone else’s addiction battle.

“She said when I read something like this, I don’t feel so alone,” said Schwartzmier, as relayed her daughter’s words. “And it reminds me of what I’m fighting for. She said, maybe it would help just one other person.”

So that’s exactly what Michelle did.

The obituary about her daughter’s brave fight went viral, and even resulted in a call from The White House.

“I tried to shine light on the epidemic, but I still wanted to honor my daughter as the beautiful person she was,” she said.

Since then, she’s been telling the story over and over, and in the middle of an epidemic, people are listening.

A group called “Focus on Renewal” held an Opioid Summit in the Sto-Rox area Wednesday.

Thirty-five agencies set up tables in one place, so people could learn about help that’s out there.

“Everybody matters. Everybody counts. The overriding goal here is no shame, no blame, bring up the hope, bring up the healing and enter recovery,” said Cindy Haines, from Focus on Renewal.

And Schwartzmier shared Casey’s story and offered both advice and hope to other parents.

“Don’t beat yourself up. You can only help them so much. A lot of stories can end with hope, not every story has to end like Casey’s,” she said.

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