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Interactive map shares stories of opioid epidemic victims

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LANCASTER, P.A. --- 116 people.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that's how many people died, per day, from opioid-related overdoses in 2016.

That same data states overdose deaths related to opioids have increased by more than five times since 1999.

Laramie, Wyoming resident Jeremiah Lindemann lost his brother J.T. to an overdose in 2007.

"When he passed away...I really shut down. I didn't want to talk much about it," says Lindemann.

Years later, to raise awareness for the epidemic and share his brother's story, Lindemann created a map.

He works for ESRI, a software company that creates interactive maps, particularly for the government.

He's taken his expertise and created the "Celebrating Lost Loved Ones" memorial map.

"When you go to the map online, it will allow you to click through stories of victims of the opioid epidemic from across the country.

In Lancaster, you can find the story of Kevin Cascio.

"Kevin was an active young guy. For many of his young years, he loved skateboarding, anything he could do outside, photography," said Nicole Hagan, Kevin's sister.

Hagan said Kevin struggled with anxiety and self-esteem issues, leading to self-medication with marijuana in high school.
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"It allowed him to feel a little bit more comfortable in his own skin, he would tell us that sometimes, and that quickly led to heroin," said Hagan.

In 2015, at the age of 23, Kevin Cascio died of a heroin overdose.

His parents, through support group sites on Facebook, came across the Celebrating Lost Loved Ones memorial map.

Kevin's mother, Kim, said the purpose of sharing his story was to show the epidemic has no limits.

"Kevin's hope was that others would see that this epidemic has no limits. It can happen to anyone, race, age and status does not matter. We are a normal middle class family that loved one another dearly. We sat down to dinner together, played together, prayed together and lived in a great neighborhood," said Cascio.

"It's a really great opportunity for us to live through our grief process but to also share stories of encouragement with others," said Hagan.

Through Kevin's story, his family has a message: "There is hope in the pain."

Their message shines through "Kevin's Hope," a program presenting scholarships to people recovery from addiction.

They feel the Kevin J. Cascio scholarship can continue to share his story, through others.

"Kevin loved and found renewed hope in continuing his education and my parent and I felt we wanted to share what we were given by way of our experience and the story we have to tell in the lives of those still recovering from addiction," said Hagan.

Hagan said they've been able to present two people in recovery scholarships through "Kevin's Hope."

The scholarship allows people to attend either the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology or Suncoast Technical College