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Grieving mothers push for opioid awareness amid pandemic

Updated: Sep. 1, 2020 at 6:38 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -Since his death five months ago, Jacqueline Levine says planting this live oak is the first time she’s had to mourn her only son, Jordan Riley Levine.

“I now have a place to put some of his ashes, there’s a tag on it so now people his friends my family we have a place we can come and talk to him,” said Levine.

She remembers how smart he was, editing and producing music videos, talented with video and lighting work too. But as a family she says they battled opioids when he went to rehab to overcome it.

“I try not to be angry because it’s a disease,” she said. He was doing well in his recovery, but when he wouldn’t pick up the phone one day, she says she knew.

“It’s just sometimes one traumatic event between that and maybe being in isolation the whole pandemic, so I don’t know what he was thinking or what happened but really the end result is just the worst possible scenario you could ever imagine,” said Levine.

Finding a friend in Shannon Prince who lost her son a year ago, both families planted trees in honor of their sons’ memories. The two are now throwing their support behind a local movement, “Tunnel of Hope” to lobby against big pharmaceutical companies, popularized by the Netflix docu-series “The Pharmacist”.

“There shouldn’t be one more person that dies because everyone’s talking about Covid, but there’s 200 people a day dying from opioid overdoses,” said Levine.

Dr. Benjamin Springgate with LSU health says the pandemic is making the opioid epidemic worse. He says since the start of it, overdoses have risen by almost 20 percent nationwide.

“Everyone’s feeling isolated because of the pandemic so offer to check in with him a couple times a day offer to go with them or bring them to their support group,” said Springgate.

Levine and Prince say they now lean on each other, turning their grief into action and awareness, to save other families from the same loss.

“We’re in a club that no one would ever want to be a member of but at least we have each other, we just feel like we don’t want any other families to have to go through this it’s just the worst thing that could ever happen to you in your life,” said Levine.

Springgate says for loved ones who want to support someone struggling with this addiction throughout the pandemic, to maybe suggest taking them to group therapy and encourage them to seek help at a doctor’s office or other therapies.

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