A strange but poignant Super Bowl ad about heroin ran in the St. Louis market. We did not see it here in Northern Kentucky but I have posted it below for your review. The ad was created by the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse in St. Louis. It aimed to “raise awareness about the heroin and prescription painkiller epidemic in the St. Louis area.”
The video has a light hearted sounding song with very serious and dark lyrics. NCADA council director Howard Weissman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that nearly 2,300 young people in the region have died from heroin use since 2007.
Here in northern Kentucky, we have our own heroin epidemic to deal with; as thousands are petitioning Kentucky lawmakers to pass past due legislation to address the heroin issues. A group called Northern Kentucky Hates Heroin has been leading the way.
More than 130 Northern Kentucky residents, gripped by a nationwide heroin epidemic that has hit their community too many times, descended Tuesday on the Kentucky Capitol demanding action from the state Legislature.
“Now is the time,” said Charlotte Wethington, a recovery advocate and mother of Matthew “Casey” Wethington, who died at 23 in 2002 from a heroin overdose.
The Northern Kentucky residents – sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents and recovering addicts – were moved by Jessica Padgett, a Campbell County resident whose brother died in 2011 from suicide after struggling with heroin addiction, to demand change on the first day of the 2015 Kentucky legislative session.
They just might get it. Gov. Steve Beshear surprised the group by showing up at the rotunda and promising help from the state.
“We are going to make sure that the Legislature will not leave this town until we’ve passed comprehensive legislation on heroin,” Beshear said, eliciting a roar from the crowd.
The governor’s vow was welcomed by the families, whose emotions ranged from disappointment to outrage last year when the lawmakers left Senate Bill 5, known simply as “the heroin bill,” unaddressed.
“I love what he said,” said Kimberly Wright of Cold Spring, whose daughter is recovering from heroin addiction and lost a stepsister to heroin. “I am hopeful. But we’ve heard promises before.”
Parents and relatives with posters plastered with photos of their children who died from heroin overdoses lined up in the rotunda after carrying the posters through the Capitol, holding them up for anyone who would glance at them to see.
Rhonda Dupuy of Grant County stood silently, tears streaming, clutching a framed photo of son Coty Glass, who died at 22 from heroin.
“We had an appointment for Vivitrol (a medicine-assisted treatment) on May 27. There was a holdup for insurance,” Dupuy said softly. Her son died May 25 of a heroin overdose.
Mary Hunt of Union held out a framed photo of her brother-in-law Kevin Lipscomb, a paratrooper whom, she said, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and died of a heroin overdose June 5.
“He was alone,” she said.
Since then, Hunt and nearly every family member who went to Frankfort on Tuesday, has been supporting other families and advocating for treatment for heroin addicts in Kentucky.
Several said they’ve had their limit of the stories about Kentucky residents dying from heroin overdoses and other health complications.
“We can’t do another year,” Hunt said. “How many people have lost their lives because (legislators) can’t agree on something?”
Present, too, were members of NKY Hates Heroin, the family of Nicholas Specht, who died at 30 from an overdose in the bathroom of his family’s Fort Thomas home. Eric Specht, Nicholas’ father, told the crowd in the rotunda he did not have naloxone to try to save his son. The drug blocks opiate receptors, forcing overdose victims into immediate withdrawal and restoring breathing if administered soon after overdose.
“I didn’t know what naloxone was,” Eric Specht said. And the first responders to his home did not have the drug, because Kentucky law doesn’t allow police to carry it.
That needs to change, the family members agreed.
Pennie Tackett, whose son has been in recovery for nine months, was angry.
She carried a sign demanding needle-exchange allowance in Kentucky.
“HIV is coming,” she said.
Her son suffered from an abscess from a dirty needle.
Padgett handed petitions with more than 2,000 signatures favoring House Bill 195 to Rep. Tom Burch, D-Jefferson County, whose bill calls for treatment, expansion of the overdose-reversal drug naloxone and needle-exchange allowance – an issue that divided some lawmakers in Frankfort last year.
The families demanded compassion from legislators.
“This is not about politics. It’s about people who are dying from this epidemic,” Wethington said in the Rotunda.
The families and recovering addicts from the Grateful Life Center in Erlanger and Brighton Recovery Center in Florence were buoyed by Beshear’s promise of legislation this session to address the heroin epidemic.
But they are not giving up their fight. Padgett addressed them after Beshear departed.
“This is the beginning,” she said. “There is strength in numbers.”