Saturday, February 24News That Matters

A family’s reckoning: Fighting the opioid epidemic at home

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Imagine the pain that would come from losing both a brother and sister to a drug overdose.

Sadly, one local family is trying to make sense of it all, and now looking for allies in their fight against the opioid crisis.

Exactly six weeks ago, Bob Dean lost his sister to a heroin overdose. In 2016, he lost his brother the same way.

Now, Bob and his family are taking a closer look at how we got here, and what we all can do to stop the epidemic.

“I hope I can keep her name alive, otherwise people just disappear. It’s just another statistic,” Bob said.

Angie was the sister you could count on.

“If you said I love you, she would always say I love you more,” Judy Viger, Angie’s sister, said.

She was lively, healthy and happy but her story took a turn like too many we’ve heard before.

Angie was prescribed opioids for a back injury.

What comes next? A heroin addiction leading to one deadly dose on January 3rd.

Angie was only 40 years old.

“Someday, when my niece gets married, I’ll have to bring her here [to the cemetery] in her dress to see her mom. I ask myself, could I have done more? What more could I have done?” Judy said.

Angie died just 16 months after her brother Shawn passed away, also from a heroin overdose.

Now, the family has made it their mission to fight the epidemic.

They’re organizing a remembrance walk on Angie’s birthday on February 16th to raise awareness of addiction. They are also raising funding for a drug treatment center in glens falls.

“It’s a horrible loss and I don’t want any other family to have to feel what my family is feeling right now,” Tiffany Viger, Angie’s sister, said.

“I did ask, what should be the top of the agenda for someone in government. I would think it’s this. This is a bit of a war,” Bob said.

It’s a war that goes back decades.

Opioids became a routine treatment for chronic pain in the late 1990s.

In 2001, drug companies assured doctors and Congress that the medications were safe.

“Addiction is not common. Addiction is rare in the pain patient who is properly managed,” Dr. Paul Goldenheim, of Purdue Pharma, (now former) VP of research & development, said.

Six years later, this executive for Purdue Pharma would plead guilty to criminal charges that the pharmaceutical company misbranded the drug.

Now, Purdue is named in local lawsuits for the same crime.  (link to 2 previous News10 stories on these local lawsuits: http://news10.com/2017/10/18/local-county-ramping-up-fight-against-opioid-epidemic/ and http://news10.com/2017/06/15/schenectady-county-files-lawsuit-against-drug-manufacturers/. 

But the damage has been done. Overdose deaths continue to rise, more than doubling in the last decade.

Bob says enough is enough.

“We need to give people hope. I don’t want it [the remembrance walk] to be just a day of words and then boom, it just disappears, it was just an event. Five years from now, I want it to be a day that made an impact on the City of Glens Falls.”

A hope that future generations can depend on.

“We need to face the storm. We need to become the storm. We need to inspire people to want to help. We need to educate to eradicate this drug from the face of the earth.”

It all begins with that remembrance walk that’s happening in Glens Falls on Friday, February 16th.  The walk will go from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Glens Falls City Park on Maple Street.

Many different local organizations that offer treatment are expected to attend.

All donations from the walk will go towards substance abuse treatment.

For donations, make Checks out to Angela Mary Dean Memorial Fund.

Mail Checks to Saratoga National Bank

227 Ballard Rd

Wilton, NY 12831