‘It’s not just those people’: Town hall meeting brings Rx drug overdoses home
The 17 people who Dr. William Bennett said died last year from prescription drug overdoses in Roane County weren’t forgotten at a town hall meeting last month.
Yellow and black police tape was affixed to empty chairs in their remembrance.
“It’s here,” Bennett said about the prescription drug abuse issue. “It’s in Roane County. It’s a terrible problem.”
The town hall at Roane State Community College focused on prescription drug abuse and featured a video, slide-show presentation, panel discussion and questions from the audience.
Letting go of the idea that prescription drug abuse only happens to “those people” was the theme of the video.
“It’s not just those people,” Patty Cummings said in the video.
She shared the struggles she’s gone through with her son.
“He moved out when he was about 17,” Cummings said. “It’s just been heartbreak ever since. He’s been in and out of rehabs.”
Ronnie Stockton also shared his story in the video.
“Through my children, we’ve seen the effects of the addiction for several years,” he said.
Bennett, Roane County’s former medical examiner, presented the slideshow to the audience.
One of the things it covered was the number of lives that are being lost to prescription drug overdoses.
Bennett said there was 22 in 2013, and the 17 he reported for 2014 might not be the final number.
“There’s a couple others in the wings that may also
turn out to be non-intentional suicide abuse of prescrip-
tion opioids that resulted in death as proven by autopsy,” he said.
Dr. John Belitz, Pharmacist Michael Hardin, Ben Young with Bradford Health Services, Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton and Sheriff’s Lt. Maretta McNichol made up the panel.
Belitz spoke about the impact the problem has on babies who are born to drug-addicted mothers.
“Excessive crying, irritability, vomiting, diarrhea, poor feeding,” he said. “If you’ve ever been in a room with these babies, until they’re treated, they have this very high pitch, just shrill, almost streaking cry. You just won’t forget.”
Stockton said most of the people in the Roane County Jail are there because of drug related offenses.
“The more addicted these people are, the more desperate they get,” Stockton said, “particularly when they’re not seeking treatment or help from someone.”
The sheriff also shared a personal story during the panel discussion.
“My son is a drug addict,” he said. “He and I have not spoken in four years. That’s really tough when you have someone you love that you can’t communicate with.”