Opioid epidemic: Deaths continue to rise and families search for answers

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA)– Deaths from overdoses are leaving holes in families, and no part of central Illinois is immune.

Champaign County has seen an uptick for about the past five years. This shows in data gathered from county death certificates.

Overdose Deaths 2015-2020 (Data pulled from Champaign County Death Certificates)

Carol Bradford, a clinical coordinator for substance abuse treatment at Rosecrance told WCIA an uptick in overdose deaths in 2020 was not surprising. She said the isolation and uncertainty from the pandemic were to blame.

What’s happened so far in 2021 is less clear.

“The first part of 2021, in the first quarter, the deaths were actually decreasing, but we’ve now seen an uptick,” Bradford shared.

Family pushes for education & justice in the wake of losing a young loved one

Jennifer Moffett is mourning the loss of her 26-year-old daughter Nichole Carver. She died as the result of an opioid overdose in September.

“I remember bawling and I’m like, ‘You can’t do this, you’re going to die. It will kill you,'” Moffett shared, describing the conversation where she found out Carver was using drugs.

The Charleston, Illinois family got a call to come to the hospital three days before her death.

“She was brain dead for three days, and I sat and held her hand up at carle for three days,” Moffett shared as tears fell.

Carver was five months pregnant when her addiction took her life. Now, Moffett and her brother, Jason Baker, have to visit both of them at Roselawn Cemetery in Charleston.

“I’m aware that her spirit is still here,” Baker said.

“I feel like she’s with me all the time,” Moffett added.

Carver’s family said the drugs that killed her came from Champaign County, but they say they see the same issue in Coles County too.

“In the same week, there was an overdose. I think he was two houses down,” Moffett said, referring to the week her daughter died.

“It is, for sure, not spoken about,” Baker added.

Baker is a recovering opioid addict. He has been drug-free for a few years now. He said he got “tired of loss and constant… just you know, the hell of it.”

He said resources are available in Coles County. Baker and Moffett took us to where Carver lived. They said she was isolated and no one knew how badly she needed that help.

Bradford said she sees the same issue in Champaign County.

“This is a resource-rich community, but it’s more important to make sure people know about those resources and know where to get them,” she explained.

Moffett said since she lost her daughter, she’s been helping others struggling the same way her daughter did.

“People don’t realize it’s an issue,” she explained. “You know, it’s nothing to them until they have to live it, and then it’s their worst nightmare.”

“A phone call could save their life,” Baker concluded.

Carver’s family wants to see more education spread about drugs and addiction, and they want to see those bringing these drugs in brought to justice.

Bradford said for those who have gotten treatment for addiction and are back in the community, creating a clear relapse prevention plan with family is crucial.

If you’re struggling with addiction, you can call Rosecrance and let them know you need help. The phone number is 217-373-2430, or toll-free: 1-866-330-8729.

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