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Mother and Sister Share Tragic Story of Opioid Use with Health Class

On the day after Christmas, almost three years ago, Darlene Palmer’s son died of a heroin overdose. Palmer and her daughter, Shannon, visited Danielle Bartl’s high school Health class to share their story of addiction and loss. Palmer’s presentation comes at the beginning of Bartl’s unit on drug use and abuse.

Palmer’s son, Steven, passed away at the age of 30. His battle with addiction began at 16 when he was involved in a car accident in which he broke his neck. After his injury, he was prescribed hydrocodone and oxycodone. The prescription drugs eventually led to illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin.

In a release from the Monroe County Department of Public Health, Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza states, "Approximately every other day, someone in Monroe County dies from an opioid overdose. This person is someone's son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister. Numerous others overdose, but survive. Drug addiction is a physical illness, often beginning with the legitimate use of pain medicine."

After her son’s death, Palmer was encouraged by her family to channel her grief into a positive effort to educate her community about the danger of drug abuse. The message she repeatedly impressed upon the students was that anyone can become addicted to drugs. “You think it can’t happen to you, but I never thought it would happen to someone in my family.”

“While Monroe County is aggressively tackling this issue on many fronts, addiction is a complex medical problem without an easy or quick solution. We will continue to work with our community partners to explore any and all options to help those struggling with addiction, and to prevent others from becoming addicted,” continues Mendoza.

For more information in local resources, visit the Monroe County Department of Health website at