The Opioid Crisis: In Our Own Backyards

On Monday, July 28th, President Trump’s Opioid Commission issued a preliminary report to declare a national emergency. The effect this epidemic is having on our country is finally getting real.

Many of us know at least one person, often too young, whose story ended up in the obituaries. In just a few weeks, our own children will be heading back to school, where they will face academic stress, anxiety, and external social pressures. They are why we cannot afford to be complacent, because this is happening in our own backyards.

For those who don’t live locally I want you to know, our community of Michiana, Indiana was rocked by a tragic event a few weeks ago. It caused a ripple effect across many people’s lives here. Somehow, it never made the national news. However, this story, and countless like it, deserve our attention. This is why I want to tell you about this and two other instances that have taken place here, so you can get an idea of how one average person in small town America is being impacted by this, and maybe realize it’s not just happening to everyone else.

On July 26th, Doctor Todd Graham, a local physician was shot and killed in a medical complex parking lot in broad daylight. Hours later the man who shot him, took his own life, after the doctor refused to prescribe prescription opioids to his wife that morning. This past June, a dear friend of mine lost her 25 year-old granddaughter to an overdose. She had a desire to get clean, but struggled with it. Two years ago, a beautiful family in our town, the Savages, lost two of their sons after accidentally overdosing on oxycontin at a high school graduation party. Their parents have started the 525 Foundation in order to raise awareness and prevent this from happening to other families. 

Last week’s shooting happened just 45 minutes before I arrived in that very parking lot for an appointment. I am still in therapy recovering from a wrist surgery I had in April. It’s important to note here that I am also a recovering addict, which is why I am writing about this. Since doctors don’t ask me about it, I volunteer it, simply because I have a healthy fear of these drugs. Fully conscious of my addictive tendencies, they were able to prescribe me a milder drug that I only took only as prescribed for as long as necessary. Thankfully the side effects are something I do not enjoy. Bit if I did, I certainly could have taken advantage of it easily.

Ten years ago, I moved here from Washington D.C. after working in the George W. Bush White House, and on public health prevention initiatives for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. So I have confronted these kinds of issues on both a national scale as well as a personal level. Little did I know that getting out of politics because I was burning out, would lead me to confronting my own demons that would reveal a deep desire to help those who want to recover from addiction. These experiences have helped me see that Washington isn’t where the greatest change will happen in this. It’s outside the beltway where the power truly lies. This is where change is driven, in America’s communities. This, is why I left Washington, so that I could live in the middle of America and witness what those inside the beltway often miss – real life outside of it.

Those of us who live in communities like ours across the nation feel the weight of this burden most. We are the ones who love those who’ve lost. We are the ones responsible for protecting where we live and those we love. We are the ones who have the ability to bring the hope. We cannot leave this up to government to do this alone. Believe me. From working on the inside, I can tell you, the presidential commission won’t be able to carry the weight. We can’t afford to pretend anymore that it’s not happening in our own backyards. We all have a role to play. But we have a choice to make first. Are we going to bring the light, or curse the darkness; be part of the change or ignore it? I think Confucius said it best, “It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.”

Thanks for reading. Please share with those who may want a better understanding of what this epidemic means for America.


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