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


  1. Thomas Szaro says:

    Possibly reach out to Jennifer Stetson, Program Coordinator Recreation, Parks, and Community Services, Township of East Brunswick. Part of the ‘Community Services’ is The East Brunswick Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. Narcan training and nasal kit distribution is offered.

  2. Bernita Gilliam says:

    I totally respect you for speaking out. It is rampant and it is everywhere. I have been staying with my 92 year old mother in a small, rural town. Everyone is shaking their heads and talking but doing nothing.
    So thank you.

  3. Mary Ellen Allocca says:

    Hi Pete,

    You are so right! I told my dear husband that this is worse than the 60’s! Why are good people dealing with this crisis? As a parent, I pray every day that God will protect my children from harm. My daughter has 2 beautiful daughters. What kind of world will they live in when they reach school-age? My precious granddaughters will live in a world full of hate, racism, and drug addictions! Mental illness is a huge epidemic- depression, anxiety etc. Young teens cannot handle the bullies, the lack of self-esteem, and wanting to have materials things that many parents cannot afford(only so they can fit in). What’s the solution? I work in Trenton and tried to be kind, and teach my teaching staff how to handle the many emotions of 3-5 years-old living in poverty. The suburbs faced many challenges also, as you pointed out! So we all must come together and fight this battle even if we are losing this war!

  4. MICHAEL SMITH says:

    Hello Peter,

    Thank you – thank you for writing and posting this and thank you (again) for the way that you and your staff took care of my family. My son Pierce died of an overdose and we chose to use Brunswick Memorial. I never thought to look at this epidemic from your standpoint. One would callously believe that, from a business point of view, funeral homes would not necessarily “be happy” for increased business but not be alarmed or outraged. I know that it’s been difficult for me to wrap my head around the numbers of peers that my kids have lost before and after my son passed. You guys see it exponentially – teens and twenty something dying at the hands of this evil, brutal illness. My family and I didn’t hide the fact that Pierce OD’d however we opted to not include it in his obituary. I regret that looking back. Anyway, I just wanted to acknowledge your blog and thank you again for your very non-business like approach to your business. I’m sure there are thousands of families that, like mine, were able to get through their loss (some more tragic than others) a bit easier because of your class, caring and grace. I spoke last year at an Overdose Awareness event and it’s something I plan on doing in the future. Feel free to contact me if you are able to start some kind of a program for schools and such. Pierce was clean for 104 days before his relapse. He was heavily involved in Narcotics Anonymous and had been helping other addicts stay clean and/or seek treatment. I want to help him continue to help others. Thank you.

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