Opiate addiction rages through Orange County, California...and all over the country. This is Joey's story, a tragic tale that is becoming al too familiar. Opiate addiction knows no bounds, and it can easily scale the wall of a gated community.
"The very last lesson a drug addict learns is that addicts steal anything from everybody, even love- even life."
At 12:49am on February 4, 2010, Matt Koegel, a friend that Joey Kennedy met in jail, called 9-1-1 to report his buddy's overdose. According to 9-1-1 recordings and a 48-page homicide report, Matt masked what happened. He reported "a kid" was lying on the side of a road next to a bike trail. Afraid of being arrested again, Matt did not mention he had partied with Joey for two days, before leaving him, passed out, on a lonely road in the dark.
The dispatcher told the unknown caller that he could not find the location. The location of the call was tracked with 9-1-1 tools, and the dispatcher asked Matt if he was calling from a Jack in the Box in Mission Viejo. Matt hung up and jumped in the car when his whereabouts were discovered. Dispatchers wondered if this was yet another prank call.
On the night of Joey's death, his friends passed at least four hospitals, before they decided to leave him on the side of the road. They drove to the car wash, cleaning up Joey's vomit before they called emergency dispatchers. Jayme then drove the others home, even passing within 500 feet of where Joey lay dying. She later wondered if anyone called dispatch back to make sure they found Joey. No one did.
After Matt hung up with 9-1-1, the dispatchers agreed on the road the caller must have been referring to. They tried to figure out where this bike trail could be. Unable to find a bike trail on their maps, the dispatcher decided not to send the engine out on a wild goose chase. False alarm calls are not uncommon for these dispatchers, and they thought this could be one of those. The bike trail Matt referred to was easily seen on Google Maps, but Orange County Fire Authority does not use Google Maps, and their software does not have a "bike layer."
The coroner's report concluded that Joey died of "acute polydrug intoxication," mostly Xanax and methadone. (Both of which were prescribed by the same doctor, and both of which are a known lethal combination.) The CDC tells us, "Enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month."
According to the OC Register, solutions include:
-Passing 9-1-1 Good Samaritan laws allowing drug users to get medical assistance for overdose victims without fear of arrest.
-Making naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, more readily available.
-Laws with greater emphasis on treatment for drug addicts rather than incarceration.
-Increasing training for emergency personnel in handling drug addicts.
-Ensuring that emergency dispatchers have maps that include landmarks and bike trails.
-Separating drug addicts during jail release.
-Reviewing probation protocol for handling addicts under the influence.
-Toughing FDA and drug companies' policies on commonly abused medications.
Opiate use among teenagers has risen across the United States. Orange County, California has a serious problem with this. Treatment centers in the area are full of young, heroin addicts, many of whom began using prescription painkillers. Parents are devastated by their children's drug use, and lives, like Joey Kennedy's, are taken too frequently because of this epidemic. Opiate addiction knows no bounds, and it can easily scale the wall of a gated community.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, please contact us.
Image courtesy of David Whiting/OC Register.
- Item Tag: opiate overdose deaths, prescription painkillers lead to heroin, teens and drug use, teens and heroin