Families hoping to combat prescription opioid and heroin epidemic

Posted at 10:11 PM, Jun 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 05:48:41-04

Prescription opioids and heroin are killing people on a daily basis. You will see 716 faces on the map here. They all have a story to tell, but they can't. Their voices are silenced, their lives are over.

So, their loved ones have gone online with a mission to make sure you keep your family safe. 

The mission is about the growing epidemic of opioids and heroin. Even if you have not lived it, you easily could. I learned in doing this story it is killing more people than car accidents and suicides COMBINED.

People in this mission are sharing their pain of lost loved ones and it is not easy.

Jeannie Richards lost her son Bryan five years ago to a heroin overdose. He was 26. She tried everything she could to help during two long years of treatment. 

She says, “I was clueless and we lost and I was devastated.” The next year Jeannie started Bryan’s Hope on Facebook. It has now grown into a non-profit in Oakland County.

Jeannie says the people who become victims of this addiction start off innocently most of them on pain meds.

 “Most of them don’t start off by saying, 'I want to be a heroin addict and have my mom find me in my room some day,'” she said.

That’s what happened with JT Lindemann. After his death, his brother Jeremiah didn’t know what to do, so he did what he knows, Information Technology and developed the map above. 

“In order for change to happen as a country there has to be understanding and I think we’re getting there. Behind each one (on the map) there’s probably a struggle that went on with it. More importantly there’s families and lots of love,” Jeremiah said.

But families and loved ones have to overcome the stigma and often harsh criticism. 

“You deserve to die because you chose this and that’s a consequence you have to pay. That’s not happening, honestly,” Jeannie says. 

Jeremiah adds, “I started to see a little bit more news and realizing that JT’s wasn’t just along in all of this.”

Jeremiah’s mapping started where he lives in Colorado. But he’s been here in metro Detroit and his online project is growing.

Jeannie wants us to add that they need systematic change, eliminating wait times to get into treatment and longer term treatment for addicts who have used long term. They have a ways to go.