Drug Overdoses and Funerals
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia, along with the states of Kentucky, Ohio, Rhode Island and New Hampshire have the highest deaths resulting from opioid overdose.
In West Virginia, as with other states, the onslaught of fatalities resulting from opioid overdoses leads to another dilemma.
Who pays for the funerals of the deceased, if their families can’t afford burial or cremation costs?
According to the Washington Post, drug overdose fatalities in West Virginia have completely inundated a burial program provided by the Department of Human Services.
Typically, the state’s Indigent Burial Program offers funeral homes the maximum amount of $1,250 per deceased person. These emergency funds are available only when the recently departed has no next of kin available to make final arrangements, or when relatives of the deceased don’t have the financial means to put their loved ones to rest. Recently, the program became besieged due to the rising fatalities from drug overdoses. Funds ran out at the end of February 2017, and many families do not have the money to bury their loved ones. While funeral directors try to help as much as they can, they still need funds to keep their homes stay in business.
Additionally, individuals 50 years old and younger, who died alone, must have an autopsy, and that results in their bodies being stuck at the morgue for weeks. Heroin and other opiates not only spell tragedy for addicts, but also for their families. Eric Fithyan, a funeral director for a West Virginia funeral home said that the relatives who bury a loved one, especially a child, who has died from an opiate addiction are as torn apart as those who are burying a relative who committed suicide.
The legacy of an opiate addict includes guilt, shame and unbearable heartache.
Additionally, some families who lose a relative to drug addiction have major financial burdens to bear. Even though young addicts, under the age of 25, are still on their parents’ insurance, some families are broke when it comes to paying for their children’s funerals. This stems from various reasons. Addicts will go to any means to get their next fix, and often when they were alive, some manipulated their families to get money. Some addicts abandoned their parental responsibilities, and often, family steps in, and takes care of their children. This can cause further financial stress.
But the emotional distress is worse. The question that many bereaved families ask when faced with burying their loved one, is “what if?”
What if their loved one had gotten proper substance abuse and addiction treatment?
Since many opioid addicts suffer from co-occurring disorders, what if these young people had received proper dual diagnosis support?
While I was researching The Washington Post, and The Intelligencer newspaper articles so I could write this blog, some of the comments blew me away. Not only were several people downright mean and cruel towards those who died from opiate overdoses, but also it was obvious that those individuals had no clue about substance addiction. One commentator said that most of the addicts who died never had jobs, and that they used drugs to pass the time. While the concept of the opioid addict being homeless, doing street crimes to get dope or being chronically jobless is part of our nation’s history, and its society, there are many opiate addicts who have jobs and families. Some of these abusers present a calm façade to the rest of the world. And it’s the smokescreen that kills them, unless they get the right treatment.
Additionally, opiates are highly addictive, and users often develop a tolerance. Many users take opiate painkillers because their doctors have prescribed them for chronic pain. A lack of empathy towards those who are addicted to opioids and other chemical substances does not help the situation. Rather it causes more shame for addicts, and the stigma surrounding drug addiction and alcoholism makes it difficult for them to seek treatment.
And to make things worse, some opioid addicts experience distorted thinking or they play down their drug use.
It’s important for loved ones, employers and other people who are in a relationship with an opiate addict to try and get them into a substance abuse and addiction treatment program that offers a strong dual diagnosis program, plus a holistic approach.
At Cycles of Change Recovery Services, we provide those services.
If you or your loved one is suffering from an opiate addiction, please do not hesitate to call.
Not only do we offer comprehensive treatment, but we also offer compassion.
Some of us have been down that road ourselves, and we also sought help, and managed to turn our lives around. Now it’s our turn to help.
We are only a phone call away.