In this fourth article, we meet a 27-year-old local man who our paramedics brought back to life from a severe overdose and a sergeant who is making a difference from within the Mount Peasant Police Department.
I met Kyle in late September a few hours after he overdosed on heroin. His roommate found him passed out and called paramedics who gave him a dose of a Naloxone, a medication that counteracts the effects of opioids. After a hospital visit Mount Pleasant Police booked him in jail for possession of illegal drugs. He was quickly released on a signature bond. He was disheveled and wild eyed, seemingly unable to focus on anything. Two of his friends were trying to talk him into going to treatment, but he repeatedly refused because he would “lose his girlfriend.” I finally got frustrated and said “Kyle, you were dead yesterday; you shouldn’t even be here. Can’t you be grateful that you have another chance?” He couldn’t comprehend that, and we finally disbanded.
The next day he agreed to treatment, but within a week he checked himself out. I called him a few times and just before Thanksgiving he agreed to meet with me. I found him clear eyed and clear headed, far different from the shivering wreck I had seen a few weeks prior.
The son of a local physician, Kyle graduated Wando and then Clemson with a bachelor’s degree in political science/psychology in 2012. He moved to California and was introduced to the party scene where he regularly used stimulants and alcohol. After a failed relationship in 2017 he got out of that scene and even attended some AA meetings. He decided to return to Mount Pleasant and pursue a nursing degree. But, before he left for his drive back, he grabbed a bunch of Xanax pills from an old prescription of his mom’s.
Back in Mount Pleasant, he enrolled in the two classes he needed for nursing school. But his addiction had been reactivated, and he ended up arrested for possession of narcotics and dropped out of school. For a while he was using anything he could get his hands on. But in early 2018 he had had enough and got serious about a 12-step recovery program. He got his record expunged and restarted the two classes he needs to get into nursing school. Things went well until mid-September when a friend of a friend stayed at his apartment for a few days. This guy was regularly smoking heroin, and one night Kyle reasoned that he had never had a problem with heroin and he wasn’t injecting it, so he could just smoke a little to relax and take the pressure off for one night. “I don’t remember much about that two weeks” says a despondent Kyle. “I spent all my savings and ended up dropping out of school again. Now I won’t be able to get into nursing school and I’m stuck in my job. I got into a counseling program that dad suggested plus I am going to AA meetings every day again, but I don’t know what to do. I messed everything up and don’t even really remember it.” Kyle now awaits a court date on this possession charge. I tried to be encouraging, but what can you say?
Later I met with Sgt. Tony Winstead, a 20-year employee of the Mount Peasant Police Department and retiree of the Air Force’s 315th Security Forces Squadron. Winstead is one of those “no-nonsense” guys, but one that has seen enough life that he is not reckless or without compassion. I tell him about Kyle, and although he can’t discuss an ongoing situation he shares much of value.
“The drugs from his mother’s medicine cabinet are what put Kyle back in the cycle again” Winstead says. “The citizens of this community need to know how important it is to get rid of their old prescriptions. Anyone who goes into your bathroom can grab them and they end up in the schools and on the streets. In the Police Department lobby we have a take-back box available 24-7 where you can drop them off. We regularly burn the contents of the box so please, help us with this.”
“The Mount Pleasant Police Department prides itself on being a part of and having a constructive relationship with the community rather than an adversarial stance. We truly care and want the best for everyone in this community.”
“Two years ago I was involved in a situation where a young man the same age as my son was struggling with opioids. He got into a treatment program and I told him to call me the day he got out. I didn’t hear from him so I called, only to find out that he had died from an overdose the day after he left treatment. I went to the Chief and told him something has to change. So we started a program called ‘The First Step.’”
“There were 21 overdoses in Mount Pleasant in 2014; this year we will probably triple that with 53 so far. Each of these situations has its own unique circumstances that we have to look at. In those cases where the individual isn’t dealing drugs and isn’t a menace to the community we have the discretion to try to steer them toward the help they need. With three victim’s advocates and a mental health counselor, we also work with the families and others affected by the situation and connect them with the resources available in the community.”
“My biggest hope is that as a community we will get past the stigma that surrounds this issue. We cannot arrest our way out of this, but if we start talking openly we can head off many of these situations before they reach the crisis stage. There are resources available; there are solutions, and people don’t have to struggle alone. “
Winstead shared a lot of information about these resources that we will address in later articles, and he has agreed to help us answer questions as this series progresses. I am personally grateful to find that we have local law enforcement that is responding, rather than reacting to this issue.
In this situation we have a man who could be a productive male nurse with genuine life experience or just another statistic. How could the stakes be higher? Next week we are speaking with a Mount Pleasant woman who lost a son to this disease and has chosen to reach out to educate and help others rather than grieving alone. It is a story that I look forward to hearing.