Fox Cities Foundation Aims to Curb Opioids Misuse
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It takes a multifaceted approach to prevent and treat opioid use disorder. In Wisconsin's Fox Cities, the Megan Kelley Foundation is successfully putting this approach to work.
The organization was founded by Bev Milley-Kelley after her daughter Megan died from a heroin overdose at age 22. Since then, Bev has been open about her daughter’s addiction to prescription medication and eventual heroin use. “I want to prevent others from walking in Megan’s shoes,” says Bev. “I am trying to educate people in our communities, so they do not have to walk in my shoes, in this forever loss journey I am on.”
Drug overdoses, especially of opioids, are a big problem in Wisconsin. Today, more than 200,000 people aged 12 and older in Wisconsin are misusing opioids. And more than 80% of Wisconsin communities have seen opioid-related deaths. In fact, the number of opioid-related deaths has more than doubled in Wisconsin since 2009. Especially among young adults.
Many of the opioid-related deaths in Wisconsin are caused by prescription drugs. But the state's heroin-related deaths are on the rise. Three out of four heroin users started by misusing prescription painkillers. These statistics resonate with Bev. They're why her foundation continues address the many facets of opioid misuse.
“I want to prevent others from walking in Megan’s shoes.”
Recently, the Foundation launched two innovative programs. The first, Hidden in Plain Sight bedroom tours, recreated a teenager's bedroom. In it, parents and caregivers can conduct their own hands-on search for clues of substance use. The second program? A Pathways to Recovery lecture series called Heroin Highway. Its guest speakers cover many addiction and mental health topics, including:
- Opioid recovery stories
- Foster care during the opioid epidemic
- Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and resiliency
- Suicide prevention
The series brings together parents of pre-teens and adolescents, teachers, and caregivers. Families affected by substance use disorders and mental health issues often attend, too; but everyone is welcome. “We are trying to reach out to people who may want to use the knowledge they gain to prevent their children from going down the path Megan went down,” says Bev.
In 2016, The Foundation created the Wisconsin Faces of Addiction Quilts tour. It aims to raise awareness of the effects of opioid use disorder in our families, communities, and nation. The quilts' red squares represent those in active addiction. Gray squares are for those incarcerated. White squares represent recovery, hope and success. Black squares are for people who have had opioid-related deaths. “Currently there are 577 people on black squares, only a tiny snapshot of what’s happening in our state,” says Bev. The quilts regularly tour Wisconsin.
Bedroom tours were featured at the Appleton Public Library for ages 21 and older. In November 2019, SECURA Insurance will sponsor two days of bedroom tours. Visit MeganKelleyFoundation.org to learn more.
You can attend a Pathways to Recovery lecture at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisconsin. The series is sponsored by Outagamie Recovery Community Alliance. New guest speakers and topics will be announced soon. Videos of previous lectures are available on the Megan Kelley Foundation's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MeganKelleyFoundation/