The Nashville mayor whose son died from an apparent drug overdose in late July, opened up publicly for the first time yesterday hoping to raise more awareness on the growing opioid epidemic in the United States.
Now a voice in the national opioid crisis, Mayor Megan Barry used the opportunity to urge families to talk about addiction with their children, NPR reports.
“I don’t want his death to define his life, but we have to have a frank conversation about how he died. The reality is that Max overdosed on drugs,” Barry said.
“My hope is that it may inspire and encourage other parents out there to have frank conversations with their own children about this. If that saves one life, then what a blessing,” she said.
Megan resumed regular duties as mayor on Monday, Aug. 7, after spending 9 days away from work, as she and her husband, Bruce, adjusted to life without their 22-year old son Max.
Even though her son’s autopsy was not complete, she said she knew for certain that drugs were involved.
“We don’t have the full autopsy yet, we don’t have the final toxicology report,” she said. “I don’t know exactly what the combination of drugs was, but I do know and we all know that that’s what caused him to die.”
She also talked about their son’s past drug use, confirming he had “occasional brushes” with drugs, which pushed him to enroll himself in a drug rehabilitation facility in Florida last summer, according to USA Today.
Max Barry died on July 29, in Jefferson County, Colorado. The overdose deaths in the county increased by 100 percent from 2002 to 2014, according to the Colorado Health Institute. In light of the number of overdose deaths in Nashville last year—261—the mayor decided to make a new budget for an opioid specialist, NPR reported.
The mayor said she wants to find more ways to use her platform to help others and advised parents on how to tackle the problem.
“If you see another child who is struggling, don’t ever hesitate to pick up the phone and call that parent,” she said, “because parents, you know, sometimes we don’t see everything that’s in front of us.”
She described how it was time for her to get back to work as mayor.
“I know that with my faith and with my family and with my friends, we will get through this,” she said. “The reality is that I’m back to work. And we have a lot of work to do in Nashville.”
In an article, she wrote to the Nashville community, she thanked them for their support and described how she first learned of their son’s death after a knock on the door.
“At around 3 a.m. Sunday, July 30, my husband, Bruce, and I awoke to a knock on the door. We proceeded to receive the most devastating news a parent could ever hear—that our beloved son, Max, had left this world before us,” she wrote.
The mayor’s mourning has been very transparent and public. Hundreds of citizens came to their open memorials that were live streamed on her Facebook page.