IT SOUNDS like a police report that should have had a much different backstory.
A woman found dead in a portable toilet.
Surely there was foul play — or a strange crime story line.
But it wasn’t. It was just another example of a life destroyed by the opioid epidemic.
There is no definitive word yet on the exact cause of death, but police at Washington and Jefferson College and in Washington County say the Hermitage woman they found dead in the portable toilet likely died of an overdose.
She had locked it from the inside.
It is hard to imagine the pain, the hopelessness and the bad decisions that got this woman to the point where she ended up there.
And it is also hard to fathom what it must be like to learn that someone you love, a daughter, a sister, perhaps, a mother, died this way.
It must be alternately devastating and infuriating.
Sometimes, there is no way to stop an addict before it is too late. And they leave a lot of heartbreak in their wake — families who loved them and tried to get them to stop, children who had to watch as they slowly killed themselves.
This story had a hook — a dead body found on a college campus in an unconventional place. You can imagine the attention it might have received. But while its location is unusual, its backstory is not unique.
There are people in Mercer County and beyond who not only battle opioid and heroin addiction, but whose lives and families have been destroyed because of it.
And we lose many of them every year. Social service agencies and others are left to fix the damaged families and children they leave behind.
Behind every statistic is a story. And that is what we should never forget, no matter how hard it is sometimes not to simply chalk up an overdose death to the opioid epidemic. Each of these stories started out with someone’s little boy or little girl, full of promise, full of hope, full of possibilities and dreams for their lives.
And we should remember that addiction and a deadly overdose can happen in any neighborhood, socioeconomic category and home.
Addiction does not discriminate. It could happen in any family, in our families.
We are talking a lot these days about who is at fault for the drug addictions that are reaching crisis points around the country.
There are lawsuits filed everywhere, including one that resulted in a massive $572 million settlement in Oklahoma.
But even though the lawyers will argue and the finger-pointing will continue, there is no solution there. There is no magic wand that will erase the damage and end the addictions.
That work will be done in communities all over this country. It will be done in families, schools, churches and neighborhoods.
And it is being done here as well.
But behind the headlines and the politicians’ pronouncements, drug company lawyers’ arguments and medical professionals’ explanations are stories like this one — lives that end at the point of a needle.
As long as we remember that there are people behind those statistics, we have a chance at saving those who are still left to save.