I think to truly appreciate what’s happening with this drug crises, you have to take a look from where we sit as funeral directors. As little as 4 or 5 years ago, our funeral home handled just a handful of drug related passings, perhaps 5 or 6 in a year. In the last couple of years, we’ve definitely seen an escalation of the numbers, but in the last six months or so, there isn’t a month that goes by without 2-3+ addiction related calls. And no, we don’t appreciate that business.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were just under 50,000 drug abuse related deaths in 2014 in the US, and preliminary 2016 data puts that number close to or over 60,000!! And from where we sit, I believe those numbers are underreported and misleading.

Why? Frequently we meet with families to make arrangements for someone whose passing was classified as a suicide, or accidental. That’s what the death certificate says, but as we sit with those families we hear the heartbreaking back stories of what led up to the end. However, due to the apparent and immediate circumstances, there’s nothing on the death certificate to indicate drug abuse (blood and toxicology screening takes 8-12 weeks to be completed, and most of the time in cases such as this the certificate is not amended 3-4 months later, thus these passings aren’t included in statistics such as those from the CDC). Over the past few weeks, we’ve handled 3 such calls. The reported numbers, from where we sit, just don’t reflect the true magnitude of the problem.

Handling these addiction related calls, and working with the torn families wears on our great Care Team for many reasons, not the least of which is some of us have seen and dealt with these issues in our own families. And some of those calls are from families – good families –that are friends. I’ve had conversations over the past few weeks with police officers and other 1st responders sharing their own exasperation and personal stories. I’ve had conversations with clergy friends, and medical professionals who shared as well. This crises respects no one. No family is immune.

I personally witnessed an incident here in town 3 weeks ago where the police had to Narcan a driver who OD’d while driving! There’s a nearby town where the police have used Narcan on the same resident 10 times…and I’ve heard from several officers of other “repeaters”. Not enough space here to share all the stories.

I’ve been asked so many times “what do you see as a solution?” It’s such a complicated problem, there is no easy answer. There are many “solutions” but none of them are THE answer, no magic wand. But here at our funeral home, we’re looking into Narcan training for the staff, as well as considering several ideas to partner with churches, etc. to go into the schools. We’ll keep you apprised.

And, prayers for all affected by this monster.

Peter Kulbacki

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