A few weeks ago, a family from Granger, Indiana appeared on the “Today” show. In many cases, it would be cause for celebration to see a family from eight miles down the road on national television.
Instead, the Savage family’s story brought tears to the eyes. Their story is heartbreaking and all too familiar: two of their teenage sons died of an accidental drug overdose after attending a high school graduation party on June 14, 2015. The brothers, Nick and Jack, consumed a combination of alcohol and prescription painkiller oxycodone on the night they died.
Called “smart kids with bright futures” by their mother Becky Savage, one bad decision added the pair of college kids to the growing count of opiate-related deaths recorded both locally and nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 15,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2015. Opioids are a class of drugs that includes heroin, prescription pain relievers like oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
The CDC estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement.
Closer to campus, Saint Joseph County has been dealing with the growing problem. State health officials recently sent 650 overdose antidote kits to the county, which experienced 35 opioid-related deaths in 2016. According to county health department data, as of this month 40 deaths have been related to opioids this year.
The South Bend Tribune reported that the kits will be sent to the Center for the Homeless, Life Treatment Centers, Hope Ministries, Jane’s House, Victory Clinical Services and the Upper Room Recovery Community.
Robin Vida, Saint Joseph County director of health education told the Tribune, “Crisis centers are most likely to see someone coming in who needs this life-saving medication. If they don’t have it, then that’s potentially one more death.”
Crisis centers are not the only place where the opioid crisis’ effects can be seen. The New York Times last week reported on the growing instances of opiate addiction seen on college campuses.
One student at Villanova, another Catholic university not unlike this one, shared her story of descent into addiction and her current road to recovery.
On Oct. 26, 2017, the Trump administration officially declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. Its victims include local neighbors and students at peer universities, reminding the Notre Dame community that this crisis remains pervasive, constant and close.