“Seek help for your children:” Midlands mother shares story of loss as LRADAC calls attention to rising overdose deaths

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Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 8:07 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 5, 2022 at 8:40 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Preliminary data from the Richland and Lexington County Coroner’s offices shows that at least 172 lives were lost to drug overdoses in these counties alone in 2021.

LRADAC, which offers prevention, intervention and treatment services, took part in Black Balloon Day on Friday, commemorating the lives lost by setting up a special art installation of 172 balloons.

Terry Browman-Blair said the display serves as a startling and moving reminder of the loss she experienced more than twenty years ago, and how the community still can’t seem to “get a grip” on the issue of substance use disorder.

Browman-Blair lost her son Gary to a heroin overdose in April of 1994.

“Even though it’s been twenty-something years, it’s still like yesterday because we always celebrate his birthday and Christmastime we always light candles for him,” she said.

Browman-Blair said he received a 90-day treatment, but no follow-up.

Gary was a “giver,” she said, a loving son, brother and father who left behind five children.

“It was a horrible experience for myself and my other sons,” Browman-Blair said. “I mean I don’t think we have gotten over that. His memory lives on, even though he’s gone. We still try to keep his memory alive by talking about him.”

Her faith, and support from her family, keeps her going.

Browman-Blair believes the resources that LRADAC provides could have saved Gary’s life.

These include the distribution of Naloxone, the life-saving overdose medication, and Deterra, a safe, at-home medication drug disposal system, as well as individualized treatment plans.

“If we knew, if I knew that there was help and other resources to get him well, we would have used it,” she said.

Browman-Blair applauds LRADAC’s efforts and has a message for other families who may have a loved one struggling with substance use disorder.

“I just wish I could talk to some moms and tell them, you know, seek help for your children,” she said. “Here’s LRADAC. Give them pamphlets or whatever you need to do. Go talk to LRADAC. Encourage your child to seek the help.”

That sentiment was echoed by Ashley Bodiford, Director of Prevention at LRADAC.

“Often times there’s a lot of stigma associated with substance use and substance use disorders, stigma that we’re really trying to break down and let people know that there’s no shame and there is hope and people can recover from this disorder,” she said. “For community members, let’s make sure we’re spreading that positive message. Positive messages of hope and recovery, people living in successful recovery, while also supporting those that are still trying to find their path there.”

LRADAC was founded in 1978. It has a budget of $10 million and serves more than 4500 clients yearly. The agency stands to benefit from the more than $300 million in funds coming to South Carolina following a historic settlement with some of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies last week.

Bodiford said those funds would help LRADAC diversify the services it provides and be responsive to the needs of the community. She said it’s too early to tell exactly how that money would be spent, though.

“I think there’s a lot of planning to still take place,” she said. “I think one of the things that’s important to us is really understanding what our community needs. So having information at our disposal to understand what areas of our community are being the most impacted, what areas are maybe being underserved, and how can we best meet those specific community populations where they are and provide effective services that can help the specific needs that they’re telling us they have.”

This is the second year that LRADAC has participated in Black Balloon Day. The agency says it is committed to working with community partners, including the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, to reduce the number of overdose deaths in the community in 2022.

For more information on programs and services, visit LRADAC’s website.

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