ST. LOUIS – People in drug recovery and struggling with their mental health say it’s harder to get help in this pandemic. The Drug Enforcement Administration has responded with a new website where you can find resources that could save someone’s life.
Ellis Fitzwalter, whose son died of a heroin overdose in 2014, is someone who you might meet if you connect with the new resource.
“We’re not trained counselors but sometimes the best counseling and the best ear is somebody’s who’s been there and done that, so we urge people to reach out to us,” he said.
Ellis and his wife Patti lost their son, Michael, in 2014.
“We thought we were alone when we heard the word ‘heroin.’ It took us by surprise and we were like many in that still today have the stigma behind substance abuse disorder, so we didn’t even talk about it for a year and a half,” Ellis said.
Now they want to share their story because when their son was struggling with opioid addiction before he died, they struggled to find help.
“The problem was there was no single place you could get all of this information,” Ellis said.
“It’s just a matter of getting families and people who are in recovery—users—to the right type of treatment, so while this website includes many avenues to the right type of treatment, you can also talk to many different people about what worked for certain people,” said William Callahan, DEA Special Agent in Charge of the St. Louis Region.
Callahan says they’re aiming to attack the problem with 3 prongs: strong law enforcement, strong treatment, and strong prevention.
“This is a coming together with kind of groups that may have been opposed to each other for many years,” he said. “One saying, ‘Hey, it’s all law enforcement’ and one saying, ‘Hey, it’s all treatment,’ and here we’re bringing together different communities and saying, ‘Okay, let’s find what is common amongst our missions and what we can do together.’”
Ellis says he misses his heroin prevention walks but he’s ready with his Stop Heroin facemask to get back to being there for someone else who needs help.
“We go anywhere that we can share our story and hopefully make an impact on somebody else’s life,” he said.