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An NYC musician lost his son to fentanyl. Now, he's honoring him with an LGBTQ+ benefit show

Martha Redbone headlining concert for Nic Pagano LGBTQ benefit concert addiction treatment
facebook @MarthaRedbone @nicpaganoLGBTQfund

Musician Rich Pagano is honoring his son's legacy with a benefit concert for the Nic Pagano Scholarship Fund, which helps LGBTQ+ people pay for addiction treatment.

Before Nic Pagano passed away from a fentanyl overdose in July 2021, he told his parents he wanted to become a social worker for LGBTQ+ people.

Today, Rich Pagano is honoring his son's legacy with a benefit concert that will help LGBTQ+ pay for addiction treatment. Through the nonprofit Release Recovery Foundation, proceeds from the show will go to a fund in Nic's name to be given back to those in need of assistance.

"This is truly the most important show that I do every year," Pagano told CBS News.

Fentanyl is considered the world’s deadliest opioid, causing almost half of all overdose deaths nationwide, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. It was responsible for over 42,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2020, and doses as small as 0.25 mg place the user at a high risk of death.

While barriers to treatment impact all people, Pagano noted that those who are LGBTQ+ may feel particularly discouraged from seeking help from loved ones or healthcare professionals out of fear of being rejected because of their identities.

"They feel they're going to be ostracized or beat up, and not accepted," he continued. "So the fact that we can offer this to a young adult or anybody in the community that is resistant because they feel different."

So far, the Nic Pagano Scholarship Fund has helped 18 people get treatment, with one recipient telling the outlet "I'm 100 percent sure I'd be dead today" without it.

The show features Martha Redbone alongside a "stellar" lineup of artists, and takes place 8 p.m. Thursday at City Winery on 11th Avenue. Despite the heavy topic, Pagano said that the performers will keep the environment uplifting and fun, as it's what his son would have desired.

"He was a singer, dancer, actor," Pagano said. "He was a big personality and loved by many and that's why it was so easy for him to become a welcoming entity at the door of treatment for people in his community."

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, SAMHSA's National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year service for those facing mental and/or substance use disorders, and can help locate treatment near you.

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.