Addressing America’s Drug Overdose Crisis

Timothy Bird

Written by Timothy Bird

Timothy Bird previously served as CEO and Chairman of M Booth Health, and believes conversations and connections can improve health for people everywhere.

The holidays are a time to celebrate our families, but for too many of us, this year’s holiday season will be leavened by loss. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  – nearly 30 percent higher than the prior 12-month period, and the highest number of drug overdose deaths ever recorded in a single year. One of those deaths was my brother Rodney.

Rod was a joy – and a fighter. By last winter, he had already survived kidney cancer and was fighting both small cell lung cancer and the painful blood cancer multiple myeloma.

Rodney and Tim Bird
Rodney and Tim Bird, August 2015, the year Rodney was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

Like many cancer patients, Rod was taking a lot of prescribed medicine to relieve his cancer pain, much of it at high doses. One evening in February, he took one pill too many, and I lost my brother. His kids lost their father. My mother lost her son. And my kids lost their beloved uncle who taught them to fish.

Overdoses are the #1 cause of accidental death in our country 

I know that my family is not alone in our pain. Since the COVID-19  pandemic started, misuse of and addiction to opioids – including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanylhas entered a new, more deadly phase. In some communities, overdose-related emergency calls are up as much as 40 percent and 42 states reported increases in overdose deaths during the pandemic. 

Opioids are often a necessary part of a pain relief plan for cancer patients like my brother. They can be safely prescribed and used to help control pain from cancer and other conditions. However, serious risks are associated with their use, including misuse, opioid use disorder (addiction), overdose, and death.

Where there is help, there is hope

One of the most important steps to ending the toll of overdose is helping the more than 21 million Americans who struggle with addiction. There is an urgent and long overdue need for increased community-based resources to address an out-of-control crisis head-on. 

On this ten-month anniversary of my brother’s passing, I am proud to announce that M Booth Health will make Shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the addiction crisis in the United States, the beneficiary of our firm’s annual holiday donation. Shatterproof is working to build a future that supports those struggling with addiction and lends strength to their loved ones and communities by advocating for change, providing resources, and taking action to prevent and defeat what is a life-threatening disease.

Shatterproof focuses on key priorities that make a measurable difference in saving lives. Their website offers free science-based information, support, and tools to millions of families. They’ve created ATLAS, a first-of-its-kind platform which helps families and loved ones find, compare, and choose among high-quality treatment facilities. Their National Movement to End Stigma is dedicated to strategically uprooting the unjust shame and discrimination associated with this illness, and their Just Five online learning tool helps employers offer addiction education to their staff. Finally, Shatterproof advocates on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures across the country to create systemic policy change, improving the quality of addiction care and making it easier for people with substance use disorders to access it.

I hope you’ll join me in supporting Shatterproof’s important work to bring an end to the addiction crisis that impacts every family in some way. You can make a donation here.

This holiday season, every donation will be matched 100% — doubling the impact of every gift.