Children suffer from effects of SWFL’s opioid epidemic

Opioid overdoses are increasing every day across the country. In Florida opioid-related deaths spiked by 35 percent for 2017. In Fort Myers a local grief support group says one in four children in their program have lost a parent to drugs.

Tucked away on a small downtown Fort Myers street lies a cozy historic house with a big family, made up of boys and girls, moms and dads, all of them with one thing in common – death of a loved one.

They meet at Valerie’s House to talk, to eat, to play, and to grieve.

In the center of the house is the memory wall, a tribute to lives lost to cancer, car accidents, heart attacks and drugs overdoses.

Jeffrey Lampila lost his wife two years ago when she overdosed on Xanax, oxycodone and cocaine which left her husband to care for their two young children, daughter Kinzlie and son Finn.

Finn remembers his mother , “I miss going to the beach a lot because we used to go to the beach a whole lot. Her smile. And the fun things we used to do.”

27 of the 34 new children at Valerie’s House have lost someone to drugs since October 1. That’s 80 percent, a number alarming the non-profit dedicated to helping children who have lost a family member.

Heroin related deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010 across the country according to the CDC. And right here in Southwest Florida, Lee Health saw a 103 percent increase in opioid overdoses in the past year from 470 in fiscal year 2016 to 955 in 2017.

Freya Turner lost her sister to heroin, “all she wanted for me was to just be who I am and be smart,” she said. Her big sister was found dead in a car in a parking lot in Estero. Her ankle tied off and heroin in her system. Her mom found the suicide note.

“Its an epidemic. What we’ve seen is we have had EMS, first responders, they say they are seeing a huge increase in the number of opioid deaths,” said Andy McNiel, an expert in children’s grief counseling, has seen the impact firsthand. “The biggest thing children need after that type of death is they need kind loving caring adults who are understanding and who are patient with them as they are coming to terms with what happened and learning to live without this person in their life.”

And that’s exactly what Valerie’s House tries to do.

Clinging on to his teddy bear, Finn says he feels comfortable there, “I get to talk about my mom and how she died and also how to get to be happy here.” All in a house where kids are helping kids heal.

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT)

The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), a part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is responsible for supporting treatment services through a block grant program, as well as disseminating findings to the field and promoting their adoption. CSAT also operates the 24-hour National Treatment Referral Hotline (1-800-662-HELP), which offers information and referral services to people seeking treatment programs and other assistance. CSAT publications are available through  SAMHSA’s Store ( Additional information about CSAT can be found on SAMHSA’s Web site at

Selected NIDA Educational Resources on Drug Addiction Treatment

The following are available from the NIDA DrugPubs Research Dissemination Center, the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), or the Government Printing Office (GPO). To order, refer to the DrugPubs (877-NIDANIH [643-2644]), NTIS (1-800-553-6847), or GPO (202-512-1800) number provided with the resource description.

Blending products. NIDA’s Blending Initiative—a joint venture with SAMHSA and its nationwide network of Addiction Technology Transfer Centers (ATTCs)—uses “Blending Teams” of community practitioners, SAMHSA trainers, and NIDA researchers to create products and devise strategic dissemination plans for them. Completed products include those that address the value of buprenorphine therapy and onsite rapid HIV testing in community treatment programs; strategies for treating prescription opioid dependence; and the need to enhance healthcare workers’ proficiency in using tools such as the Addiction Severity Index (ASI), motivational interviewing, and motivational incentives. For more information on Blending products, please visit NIDA’s Web site at

Addiction Severity Index. Provides a structured clinical interview designed to collect information about substance use and functioning in life areas from adult clients seeking drug abuse treatment. For more information on using the ASI and to obtain copies of the most recent edition, please visit

Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction(Reprinted 2010). This publication provides an overview of the science behind the disease of addiction. Publication #NIH 10-5605. Available online at

Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What To Ask(2011). This lay-friendly publication offers guidance in seeking drug abuse treatment and lists five questions to ask when searching for a treatment program. NIDA Publication #12-7764. Available online at

Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations: A Research-Based Guide (Revised 2012)Provides 13 essential treatment principles and includes resource information and answers to frequently asked questions. NIH Publication No.: 11-5316. Available online at

NIDA DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction (Revised 2009). This is a fact sheet covering research findings on effective treatment approaches for drug abuse and addiction. Available online at

Alcohol Alert (published by NIAAA). This is a quarterly bulletin that disseminates important research findings on alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Available online at

Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinicians’s guide (published by NIAAA). This booklet is written for primary care and mental health clinicians and provides guidance in screening and managing alcohol-dependent patients. Available online at

Research Report Series: Therapeutic Community (2002). This report provides information on the role of residential drug-free settings and their role in the treatment process. NIH Publication #02-4877. Available online at

Writer:Derrick Shaw
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