Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Long Walk of Moms and Dads After Overdose

Submission Date: August 28, 2015
Attributing Author: Denise Cullen

It's a hard road, the one that we walk after our children die from a drug overdose. It's a walk that numbs your feet from the miles of isolation and grief. So many Orange County moms and dads are on this road now, too many of them. I'm only one of thousands. The White House is now trying to grapple with the problem (In heroin fight, White House tries to break down walls between public health, police, August 16, 2015), but they will likely fall short. A strategy that doesn't prioritize empowering people who use drugs to save their own lives and the lives of their peers by making the opiate overdose reversal medicine naloxone far more readily available to them is doomed to disappoint expectations. Ask a parent of a child who could have been saved by naloxone, they'll tell you.

hyper-arrow Click here to see video and read the entire article.

International Overdose Awareness Day 2015


Grieving Parents Memorialize Lost Loved Ones, Celebrate Advances in Overdose Prevention and Call for Further Change.

GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing)/ Broken No More and partnering organizations will convene rallies, vigils and overdose prevention trainings across the United States in commemoration of International Overdose Awareness Day. From California to Vermont, parents and loved ones of those affected by or lost to overdose are coming together to increase awareness of the overdose epidemic in the United States and to promote measures to effectively prevent such tragic losses.

Heroin overdoses have quadrupled in the last decade and deaths due to drug overdose have more than doubled since 1999 making drug overdose the leading cause of injury death in the United States with rates that surpass even motor vehicle accidents. “One hundred twenty people are dying every day across the U.S. to drug overdose. We’re losing an entire generation of people and it doesn’t matter if you have money, what color you are, or how much education you have” said Denise Cullen, executive director of GRASP and Broken No More.

GRASP was founded to provide sources of help, support and compassion for families or individuals who have had a loved one die as a result of substance use or addiction. With 100 chapters across the United States and Canada, GRASP provides compassionate support to more than 2500 members affected by a substance related death.

Many GRASP members, including Cullen, are parents who share in the tragic and unique challenges of grieving the loss of a child to overdose. Cullen describes the loss of her son Jeff in 2008 in this video produced for Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s a very different thing to lose your child than to lose a parent, a partner or any other relationship. I’ve lost all those things and it’s nothing compared to this, especially after you fight with them for so long, you struggle with them and you have hopes that things are going to be okay. So when this happens, there are no more choices, no more chances, no more hope.”

Cullen and other parents across the country are joining together and transforming their grief into activism to prevent others from having to suffer such tragic losses. International Overdose Awareness Day provides an opportunity for families to memorialize lost loved ones and to advocate for change. Broken No More and partnering organizations such as A New PATH and Moms United to End the War on Drugs are promoting efforts to end the stigma of addictive illness and championing drug policy reform rooted in evidence, compassion and dignity.

According to this CDC report, these parents’ efforts, along with those of drug policy reformers and harm reduction activists, have been rewarded with success. Since 2010, there has been a 90 percent increase (from 16 to 30) in states with at least one organization distributing naloxone (the medication that reverses the effects of an opiate overdose). The previous five years have also seen a reported 187 percent increase in the number of laypersons provided naloxone kits, which has resulted in a 160 percent increase in the number of reported overdose reversals.

Several states have passed laws allowing pharmacies to distribute naloxone and the overdose antidote is also now being distributed by some primary care clinics, emergency rooms and drug treatment centers. While this progress is remarkable and inspires hope, there is work yet to be done.

According to the aforementioned report, despite the successes, 50 percent of responding organizations cited a lack of resources to sustain or increase naloxone distribution sufficiently to meet community needs. And while 82.8 percent of laypersons who reported successfully using naloxone to reverse an overdose were characterized as ‘people who use drugs,’ much of the federal and community overdose prevention funding has been reserved primarily to equip first responders, such as police and firefighters, with this life saving medication. While it is advantageous for first responders to carry naloxone, expanding distribution where it is most needed and most effective-namely into the hands of drug users and their loved ones-is a priority for those campaigning for an end to the overdose epidemic.

International Overdose Awareness Day, started by the Salvation Army in Australia in 2001, is an opportunity for people around the world to publicly mourn loved ones without guilt or shame. Many participating countries also use this day to send a strong message to current and former drug users that their lives are valued and that no one should ever die from a preventable fatal drug overdose.

Watch the video and learn more about GRASP/ Broken No More’s advocacy efforts here.

The public is invited to attend the events listed below. To learn more about GRASP visit

GRASP/ Broken No More & Partners 2015 International Overdose Awareness Day Events. August 29-31.

Huntington Beach, CA
Date:  Sunday, August 30th
Time:  5:00pm - 7:00pm
Location: Huntington Beach Pier
Contact: Denise Cullen 714-602-8616
Gretchen Burns Bergman 619-670-1184

Denver, CO
Date:  Monday, August 31st
Time:  2:00pm - 5:00pm
Location:  231 E Colfax

Newark, DE
Date:  Monday, August 31st
Time: 8:00pm - 11:00pm
Location: Rte 896 and Main Street
Old University of Delaware Campus

Englewood, FL
Date: Sunday, August 30th
Time: 11:00am
Location: Ricaltini's Bar and Grille
1997  Kentucky Ave

Davenport, IA/Rock Island, IL 
Quad Cities Overdose Awareness Walk
Date:  Saturday, August 29th
Time:  8:00am
Location:  Lafayette Park/Schweibert Park

Carpentersville, IL
Date:  Monday, August 31st
Time:  3:00pm - 5:30pm
Location:  Village Hall/ Police Station

Chicago, IL
Date:  Monday, August 31st
Time:  1:00pm - 3:00pm
Location:  Federal Plaza
230 South Dearborn Street

Ottowa, IL
Date:  Saturday, August 29th
Time:  10:00am
Location:  Washington Park Historic District

Gardner, MA
Date:  Monday, August 31st
Time:  7:00pm - 9:00pm
Location:  Monument Park

Towson, MD
Date:  Sunday, August 30th
Time: 7:00pm
Location:  Towson Courthouse Fountain Square
Philadelphia, PA
Date:  Monday, August 31st
Time:  8:00pm
Location:  Lion's Park, Fox Chase
7900 Oxford Ave.

Pittsburgh, PA
Date:  Monday, August 31st
Time:  12:00pm
Location:  Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
328 6th Ave

Wilkes-Barre, PA
Date:  Sunday, August 30th
Time:  3:00pm - 6:00pm
Location:  Kirby Park
Contact:  coolbaugh324

Austin, TX
Date: Sunday, August 30th
Time: 5:30pm-7:30pm
Location:  Steps of the State Capitol Building
Contact: Mark Kinzly at markkinzly22  860-724-5339

Berryville, VA
Date:  Monday, August 31st
Time:  4:00pm - 8:30pm
Location: Rose Hill Park & Gazebo East Main Street
Contact:  Lisa Wilkins: 540-313-2484

Roanoke, VA
Date:  Sunday, August 30th
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Garst Mill Park
Contact:  dereckshope

Berlin, VT
Date:  Monday, August 31st
Time:  6:00pm - 8:30pm
Location: 445 Industrial Lane

Contact: Denise Cullen | 714-865-7879 | denisecullen

Matthew Manarski

Submitted by: Mother
Born: 1991
Died: 2015
My Tribute: I lost my only child, Matthew, to a heroin overdose about six weeks ago. The nightmare of losing him has just begun for me. I know it will never end. He was such an intelligent and handsome boy. A 2013 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He was struggling with finding his place in the adult world and, for some reason, was so self conscious and confused about where he fit in. Unfortunately, he turned to drugs for relief. His first injection of heroin was also his last. It killed him.

Grief Support Group Offered for Survivors who Lost Loved One to Substance Abuse

Banner1Date: August 19, 2015

Source: (Huntington's Premier News Source)

Those who have lost a loved one due to a substance-abuse addiction now have a new resource in the community.

GRASP, or Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing, is a support group aimed at helping individuals cope with the passing of loved one due to substance abuse. This peer-led group was founded in California and, over time, has found its way to other communities.

To read the entire article Click Here



Submitted by: Mother
Born: 1990
Died: 2015
My Tribute: My only son Iain died on March 22, 2015 of a heroin overdose. He struggled with substance use disorder his entire adult life. He was found in a public washroom. The day of his death would have marked his 14 month in recovery. He was loved by many people and its heartbreaking to live in a society that doesn't promote harm reduction, provide ready access to treatment, criminalizes and creates stigma and shame for those afflicted with this mental health issue. My heart is full of compassion for myself, Iain's sisters, father, all those who loved him, and all others whose lives are impacted by substance use disorders. Iain didn't want this disease and tried so hard to stay in recovery. Substance use disorder has taken millions of lives and continues to impact so many people. With greater support people like Iain have a better chance of staying in recovery.

Molly brewer

Submitted by: sister
Born: 1976
Died: 2015
My Tribute: I lost my sister 7/8/15 to drug overdose.she left behind 6 kids and my mom and brother and sister. She was not even 40. Most of all I am angry at her and yet I am lost and have so many questions. I miss her and love her. But I want to know why?

Nicole Makseyn

Submitted by: vanessa makseyn
Born: 1976
Died: 2015
My Tribute: My sister lost her battle 5 days before her birthday. She left a 7 year old daughter behind, not to mention my mom and dad and her sisters and brothers. friends and loved ones. You never think it will happen in your family. But it did. The pain is heart wrenching. The guilt the memories. The shock and sadness. I miss her everyday.

Amber Rich

Submitted by: Robin Rich, mother
Born: 5/81
Died: 4/14
My Tribute: Amber was a beautiful woman with a heart as big as Tx. She had two little girls, loving parents and siblings that loved her dearly. She truly wanted to get clean and sober and fought hard. She developed a systemic infection due to drug abuse and just couldn't stay in the hospital long enough for treatment of the infection. She is missed greatly. Always in our hearts.

Andrew “Andy” Williams

Submitted by: Carla, his Sister
Born: 1973
Died: 2015
My Tribute: Andy was my little brother and he was one of my closest friends. He died 2 weeks ago from a cardiac arrest caused by a combination of a prescribed anxiety medication and heroine use. He had gotten out of a 30 day rehab facility the day before. My family and I were (and are) in complete shock. We had absolutely no idea that he would risk his life by injecting drugs much less heroine.

Andy has struggled with drugs and addiction for many years. It started with marijuana , then marijuana and whiskey, then pain killers. He entered a great long term rehab facility in Phoenix about 6 years ago and he really turned his life around. We were all so proud of him. He eventually moved home in Spring 2014 and began to mend relationships that he had destroyed (including mine and his) during those horrible drug and alcohol years.

He contacted me late June 2015 and told me he was struggling again. I knew he had not been tending to his addiction like he should have been,. He was not attending meetings, he was not communicating with his sponsors and he was starting to date women who drank alcohol. With him reaching out to me, our family rallied around him and found him a detox and rehab facility immediately for what we thought would be a 30 day "regroup " or "retrain" then he would be back to normal and back to work. In fact we all felt that even after just 2 weeks of rehab he was ready to get back home. He sounded so healthy and so eager to get back normal and start getting his deer camp ready for hunting season. His missed his dog and he missed being at work.

Two days after getting out of rehab he was gone. This man loved his family, his friends, his job, and loved being in the woods. We are all still in shock and we are devastated. This picture I posted was taken as a selfie and posted online telling everyone he was 30 feet up in a climbing stand letting everyone know this was one of his favorite places to be. How can heroine find a person like this much less control his every thought and take his life? This drug is a demon in disguise ........

God bless us all for having to tread through these terrible thoughts and feelings of guilt, shame, sorrow, grief, anger and loneliness

Remembering Cam

Submitted by: Kristen
Born: 6490
Died: 4315
My Tribute: I lost my only child, Cameron Paul on April 3rd, 2015 from a presumed O.D. of Heroin and Fentanyl.
It was not always easy being his mom--from early behavioral problems, ADHD and a defiant nature--to the horrific addiction that would claim his short life.
I held out hope for such a long time--that he would rid himself of this monster--that his life would turn around and he would drive up to my house one day--the very home he grew up in--and pick me up for dinner (and pay the check!)
But the only car that drove up was a police cruiser, informing us that he was found dead that Good Friday (nothing good about it in retrospect)....all my hopes and dwindling dreams of recovery for my son were dashed in an instant.
But, he left behind a beautiful granddaughter, Gabby that I cherish. She looks so much like him, it often takes my breath away!
My Child

You changed me.
You changed who I am,
You changed who I will be
I am forever changed because of you.

You’ve taught me that love has no boundaries
You’ve taught me that there is more to life than what I know
You’ve taught me to really truly count my blessings.
You’ve taught me the strength of a bond between a mother and a child.

Life is unpredictable
Life is about the love you share, and the people you share it with
Life isn’t easy and there is pain beyond measure
But my life must continue, even though your life is gone.

I must continue, so that I can change the lives of others
the way you have forever changed me