Experiencing loss from an overdose death; turning pain into purpose

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS — Drug addiction doesn’t just affect the user, it affects everyone surrounding them.

But for years there’s been a stigma on drug addiction, which has scared people from getting help.

In this special report, WMBD’s Matt Sheehan takes a look at the life of a woman whose life was changed forever by an overdose death in her family.

In March of 2018, Crystal Scurlock lost her brother Greg to an overdose.

While time has passed, the pain of losing him still remains.

“It hurts because he’s gone, but I know that he’s not living in pain anymore,” said Scurlock.

Crystal says her brother could always make anyone laugh and was filled with joy.

“He just loved to dance, loved to play.  The kids love him, I have 3 kids myself that absolutely love their uncle,” Scurlock said.

Scurlock has been able to use her story to help others who know someone who is addicted to drugs. She also is very active in her brother Greg daughters’ lives.

She says unconditional love and support can help someone turn their life around.

“Be support.  Be there when they need you because they do feel like nobody loves them.  They feel like nobody cares.  Just show your care, show your love and just try to be there as much as you can for them,” Scurlock said.

Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood says overdose deaths in central Illinois have decreased over the last few years.

But it’s more about the people, than the numbers.

“If we look at our data from 2017-2018, we had a 22 percent reduction in our overdose deaths,” Harwood said.

But in June, Peoria County was hit with a cluster of three overdose deaths.

Harwood says keeping people safe is a huge focus at his office.

“We talk about prescribing, not prescribing opioids, or reduce the prescription of the opioids.  We’re talking about NARCAN or Naloxone distribution,” Harwood said.

The Peoria Fire Department, Jolt Foundation, and other organizations are provided NARCAN to help when there’s an overdose.

The Peoria County Jail also sends people home with Naloxone when they’re released if employees from the jail believe it’s needed.

Harwood says when someone dies from an overdose, there’s a heavy sense of grief for families and friends.

“It affects people families on very very deep levels,” Harwood said.

Scurlock adds getting help is an important step that many drug abusers don’t take.

“The resources are out there, but until that person is willing and ready to go to those resources, that’s the issue,” Scurlock said.

The Gateway Foundation in Pekin treats people who are dealing with substance abuse disorders.

Clinical Supervisor Brandon Underwood says people are realizing opioids are deadly, so they’re turning to other drugs, like meth, instead.

“You have people who have their own built-in denial systems when it comes to different substances.  (They think) alcohol is okay because it’s legal, cannabis is okay because it’s not one of the hard drugs,” Underwood said.

Underwood believes available resources and overdose reversal medications, such as NARCAN, are huge reasons why overdose deaths are becoming less.

“It’s so easy to get and so easy to use, that anybody can administer it,” Underwood said.

Scurlock wants people to understand that addiction is a disease.

While not everyone struggles with drug addiction, it’s important to understand at the core, those who do struggle are still human beings.

“He had such a big heart.  The drug addiction wasn’t who he was, it was his go-to, but outside of the drugs he had the biggest heart,” Scurlock said.

While her brother Greg may be gone, his spirit lives through his family.

Scurlock says when she looks at his daughters, she sees a glimpse of Greg.

If you or someone you know is battling drug addiction, please reach out to resources to get help.

If you know someone who is dealing with opioid abuse, be a strong source of comfort for them, and remember they’re a human being just like everyone else.

You can find locations of resources in the video below.

Where to find drug resource centers in central Illinois

Peoria locations:

JOLT Foundation– 1411 NE Adams St, Peoria, IL 61603
Human Service Foundation — 130 North Richard Pryor Place

UPH Proctor — 5409 N. Knoxville Ave First Floor, Peoria, IL 61614
Teen Challenge — 311 S Olive St, Peoria, IL 61602

OSF St. Francis Medical Center Behavioral Health Services Outpatient — 320 E Armstrong Ave Entrance #4, Peoria, IL 61603

Tazewell County:

Gateway Foundation — 11 S Capitol St, Pekin, IL 61554

Tazwood Center For Wellness — 3248 Van De Ver Ave, Pekin, IL 61554

Rehab Care Group — 901 Illini Dr, East Peoria, IL 61611

McLean County:

Daylight Drug Rehab — 710-700 E Grove St, Bloomington, IL 61701

New Start Drug Rehab — 1101-1117, Abercorn St, Normal, IL 61761

Chestnut Health Systems — 1003 Martin Luther King Jr Dr, Bloomington, IL 61701

Advanced Evaluation Treatment and DUI — 705 E Lincoln St #204, Normal, IL 61761

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