Stigma surrounding opioid crisis must end
Two thousand, six hundred, sixty one.
According to numbers released from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, “A total of 1,379 Massachusetts residents died in unintentional opioid overdoses in 2015, up from 1,282 deaths the year before.”
Think about that for a moment. Two years, 2,661 human beings lost. Lost to an epidemic many people still don’t believe in and continue to mock and ridicule. For every one of the 2,661 there are hundreds, if not thousands struggling with substance use disorder (SUD).
My journey into heroin hell truly began sometime in 2011 when I finally understood the depths of my son’s substance use disorder and the impact it was having on his life. His story, our story, has been told before (see links below) so I’d rather take this opportunity to discuss where we are today as a society.
We’re not there yet. That’s the sad truth. There aren’t enough beds for those seeking recovery, the stigma is still strong enough to drive users into hiding, dealers continue to add fentanyl to give their heroin a stronger high (50 percent of the 2,661 deaths had fentanyl in their system). I personally know too many families trying to save a family member in active use. The old adage, “walk a mile in my shoes,” rings especially true for these families and their sick loved ones. Unless (until) you have been touched by this epidemic you cannot possibly understand how it ravages the souls of those involved. Please, I’m begging, stop the stigma so these people can feel more comfortable reaching out for support and recovery.
On a positive note, states are enacting legislation to create more recovery options, court systems are recognizing SUD needs to be treated both medically and emotionally and are offering better programs for recovery. Police and fire departments are opening their doors to assist folks seeking recovery in getting into a program. As a society we can do more, we can do it better, we must keep fighting to save these precious lives.
Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. People across the globe will take a moment to remember the lives lost to this horrific epidemic. In honor of this day of remembrance I am placing 2,661 flags in my yard to call attention to the staggering number of lives lost just in our home state. The display will be there for a week and then placed again at our annual Brent Hastings Memorial Fund Golf Tournament at Bay Point Club on Sept. 17.
The Brent Hastings Memorial Fund was founded in 2014 as a way to honor the memory of my son, Brent, lost to a heroin overdose on March 12, 2014. Our mission is to support substance use disorder education, awareness and recovery programs. To date we have raised over $33,000 through the generous support of our donors, sponsors and event guests. More information can be found on our Facebook page (Brent Hastings Memorial Fund). Donations are always welcome through our GoFundMe account (link found on Facebook page), by mail to 380A Main St., Wareham, MA 02571. Questions can be directed to 508-951-2300.