A letter from our Executive Director – June 2022

Welcome to the second edition of the Executive Director quarterly update! Summer is upon us, and the sun reflects the bright future ahead for the Jamie Daniels Foundation.

In May 2021, when I joined the Jamie Daniels Foundation as Executive Director, I couldn’t have imagined the impact this experience would have on me. What I’ve learned and the personal stories many of you have shared will be with me forever.

I’m struck by my previous ignorance regarding the impact substance use disorder is having in every community across the country – the difficulties families face in securing the care their loved ones need, and the stigma that still exists within individuals, organizations, and communities. Yet I’m encouraged by the passion of those who are working to make a difference in this space, the increased openness to enter into meaningful conversations about substance use disorder, and the progress that the Jamie Daniels Foundation, with your help, has made.

To that point, thanks to all of you who attended and supported our first annual Comedy Night of Hope at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle held on May 1 with a special thank you to our presenting sponsor Priority Waste, and dinner sponsor Crank’s Catering.  It was a great success as we were able to connect with more than 400 current and new supporters, allowing us to share our mission and impact of the foundation. Across two shows we raised $50,000 to support a new adolescent substance abuse treatment center planned to open this year in Troy, Mich. In my next update I’ll have more to share about this much needed resource.

In May we encouraged supporters to join the No Shame Movement to reduce stigma by taking the #NOSHAME pledge (click to read Blog). Along with the SAFE Project and our partners, we were able to reach more than 100,000 across the county, with more than 1000 stepping up and taking the pledge. Click here for photos of those who supported on behalf of the Jamie Daniels Foundation.

We know that over 63% of Americans have unused or expired prescription medication in their homes, and unfortunately, for a significant number of children and teenagers, access to this medications is their first source of drugs that start them down the journey of usage. That’s why the Jamie Daniels Foundation has been distributing Deterra drug activation disposable pouches at events and to our community partners, encouraging Michiganders to safely clean out their medicine cabinets.

These pouches render the medication harmless since you can safely throw them away in household trash without any environmental impact. In just the last 90 days we’ve distributed more than 1000 pouches with the capacity to destroy 45,000 pills, keeping them out of reach of our children.

Our next grant cycle is rapidly approaching, and I am exciting about what that will mean for our community.  I’m anticipating several new grantees along with continuing relationships with many of our current partners, and I look forward to sharing this news with you in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your ongoing support and please connect with us on social media to stay up to date on all our activities.

In partnership,

Chris

Help bring Collegiate Recovery Programs to more campuses in Michigan.

National research indicates that approximately 95% of students in Collegiate Recovery programs maintain their recovery, yet not all Michigan colleges are able to offer a robust school-supported and sanctioned program.

That’s why the Jamie Daniels Foundation is partnering with SAFE Project to offer campuses in Michigan the opportunity to join an exclusive Michigan cohort of the SAFE Project Collegiate Recovery Summer Series. The Summer Series is an 8-week virtual program for university personnel who want to improve recovery support services and capacity on their campuses.

Participants in the Michigan cohort will receive:

  • Curated online course content
  • Live mentorship and webinars
  • Access to a learning cohort of like-minded professionals
  • Funding opportunity to implement a recovery-supportive project or program on your campus
  • Continued technical assistance throughout the 2022- 2023 academic year to sustain your project

Whether you have an established program or are in the very early stages of considering the importance of collegiate recovery, we look forward to receiving your application!

While much of the content will be self-paced, applicants to the Summer Series should keep the following dates/times blocked for potential live sessions or check-ins: each Wednesday from June 22 – August 10, 3pm-4pm. Deadline to submit applications is June 10.

To learn more or to apply contact Chris Perry at [email protected]

Join the #NOSHAME Movement! Help stop stigma.

To those who joined us in May 2022 for the #NoShame Movement – we appreciate you and your pursuit to end stigma.

“The biggest killer out there is stigma. Stigma keeps people in the shadows. Stigma keeps people from coming forward and asking for help. Stigma keeps families from admitting that there is a problem.” – former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams

For people who are struggling with a substance use disorder, especially teens or young adults, one of the biggest barriers to getting the support and treatment they need is the stigma associated with the disease.

Often individuals and families who could benefit from treatment and other resources do not pursue or utilize them because of the shame and blame associated with addiction. However, it’s important to understand that addiction is not a choice, a sign of weakness, or a moral failing; it is a disease that requires treatment.

At the Jamie Daniels Foundation we understand this struggle and have established stigma reduction as a key pillar of our mission. That’s why, in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, we are partnering with SAFE Project and other leading organizations on the No Shame Movement to end stigma.

Throughout May, we invite you to join us in combating the negative perception of addiction and help us reduce the impact of stigma by signing the No Shame Movement pledge. It simply means you:

  • Understand that addiction is a disease and eliminate the stigma
  • Commit to learning more about the disease of addiction and mental health challenges that contribute to it
  • Encourage individuals to seek help and treatment
  • Support people in recovery on their journey

It will take all of us to end stigma. Join the No Shame Movement, and click here to take your pledge.

Once you take the pledge, please post a photo of yourself with your No Shame certificate and tell us what this pledge means to you and why you joined the movement. Be sure to tag @JamieDanielsFoundation and @SAFEProjectUS, and use #NoShame and #MentalHealthAwareness.

Voices for Non-Opioid Choices: Preventing addiction and saving lives

According to the CDC, in the year ending in May 2021, over 100,000 Americans died from a drug-relate overdose. Of these, 2,902 were Michiganders.

Integrated through all the Jamie Daniels Foundation’s work is our mission to save lives. That’s why we so highly regard substance use prevention – and the reason we recently partnered with Voices for Non-Opioid Choices.

Voices for Non-Opioid Choices is a bipartisan coalition dedicated to increasing access to non-opioid approaches to manage acute pain. In effect, this will prevent millions of Americans from becoming long-term opioid users. It is comprised of more than 50 leading provider, patient, recovery, and prevention organizations working together for one important cause.

The goal of the coalition is to provide necessary policy changes to grow patient and provider access to managing acute pain, without prescribing opioids. When doctors have more options to pain management, it helps address the distribution and diversion of opioids.

A few facts to consider:

  • 3.75 million (9.2%) of patients escalate to long-term opioid use after a low-risk surgery (e.g. inguinal hernia repair, knee arthroscopy)
  • On average, patients receive 80 opioid pills each to manage their pain, regardless of need
  • Of the 9.7 million people who misused pain relievers in 2019, 37.5% received the pills from a health care provider, and 50% obtained them from a friend
  • 50% of 12th graders have experimented with drugs – 60% of those admit to accessing drugs from their parent’s medicine cabinet

 This objective will be furthered with the support of the Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation Act (“NOPAIN Act”) which was introduced to Senate in 2021. As part of our partnership, Executive Director, Chris Perry, will regularly meet with Senator Stabenow’s office to discuss sponsorship of the NOPAIN Act. 

The policy changes would increase patient and provider access to non-addictive alternatives and as a result, greatly lessen the need for prescribing opioids after surgeries. Additionally, it would change a federal reimbursement policy that incentivizes the use of opioids in hospital settings after a surgery, helping to close this surgical gateway and preventing possible addiction.

At the Jamie Daniels Foundation, we believe substance use prevention is key. We are proud to participate in this effort to increase availability and utilization of non-opioid approaches to pain management, reducing the number of opioid prescriptions. Together, we can work toward a healthier, safer future by developing accessible FDA-approved, safe, effective, and non-addictive approaches for patients and providers.

Interested in joining this effort? Here is how you can get involved:

Activity Updates:

March 31, 2022 –

The Jamie Daniels Foundation co-signed a letter with more than 50 other concerned organization from across the U.S. to the United States Senate Finance Committee encouraging  its members to include the NOPAIN Act in the mental health legislative package currently under development.  

To date, Congressional efforts to combat the opioid crisis have provided resources to communities, first responders, and patients dealing with an opioid use disorder – efforts the Jamie Daniels Foundation strongly endorses. However, relatively little focus has centered on opportunities to prevent opioid addiction. One way to prevent opioid addiction is to minimize exposure to narcotics by making available other, non-opioid based pain management approaches. Doing so can prevent opioid misuse in the nearly 4 million Americans who initiate long-term opioid use every year after a routine surgical procedure. Inclusion and passage of the NOPAIN Act would do just that.

Change your words. Help eliminate stigma related to substance use disorder.

Stigmatizing language occurs in our everyday conversations, often going unnoticed. It subtly exists in common words and phrases, communicating attitudes, stereotypes, and biases about substance use disorder. We tend to repeat and internalize what we see, read, and hear, and unfortunately when we use the wrong words, it can directly affect someone struggling.

Whether we mean to or not, stigmatized individuals become marginalized, undesirable, and invisible to the rest of society. But it doesn’t have to be that way.  That’s why we invite you to change your words.

There is plenty of evidence to prove that substance use disorder is a chronic, treatable disease from which individuals can recover and lead healthy lives. The following unbiased language reinforces the reality of substance use disorder and help us to remove the blame, hopelessness, shame, and punishment of thoughtless words:

ADDICTION SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER

DRUG ABUSER PERSON WHO USES DRUGS

REFORMED ADDICT PERSON IN RECOVERY

CLEAN IN RECOVERY

DRUG HABIT REGULAR SUBSTANCE USE

OPIOID REPLACEMENT MEDICATION ASSISTED TREATMENT

These changes show that a person has a problem, versus is a problem – that the person is struggling with a disease, not choosing to be ill. By educating ourselves and loved ones about the right vocabulary, we can help those experiencing substance use disorder, their families, and our communities to heal.

For more information about this, as well as a full list of vocabulary you can update, click here.

A letter from our Executive Director – March 2022

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Executive Director Update!

On a quarterly basis I’ll be providing updates on Jamie Daniels Foundation activities but also to inform you of future plans and potential initiatives.

I’m relatively new and still learning about substance use disorder, but one thing is crystal clear – this “silent” epidemic is causing devastation across our country, impacting communities and families without discrimination. Government data shows over 100,000 lives have been lost in the past year due to overdose. As a result, this has caused the nation roughly $1 trillion, along with unimaginable heartache.

This is a significant problem that requires collaborative, far-reaching efforts along with targeted local initiatives.

Advocacy

Earlier this year the Jamie Daniels Foundation partnered with Voices for Opioid Choices, a nonpartisan coalition to create non-addictive choices and increase utilization of non-opioid pain management approaches. This coalition is also advocating for the passage of the Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation Act (“NOPAIN Act”) which has been cosponsored by over 130 members of Congress.

We’ve also joined a cross-disciplinary collaborative, working with both non-profit and for-profit organizations to identify synergistic approaches to combating substance use disorder. The goal of this strategic partnership is to establish collaborative, efficient, and effective ways to overcoming the drug use crisis. While still in the early stages, over the coming months I’m hoping to share new and enterprising initiatives coming from this partnership.

Fundraising

Locally, we are excited to be a partner in the establishment of a new adolescent substance use disorder treatment center in southeastern Michigan. This out-patient clinic will care for youth regardless of insurance coverage or ability to self-pay. Proceeds from our upcoming Jamie Daniels Foundation Comedy Night of Hope will support this project. This event will be held on May 1 at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, Mich. To learn more, including sponsorship opportunities, click here.

Impact

The Jamie Daniels Foundation continues to be a major funder of collegiate recovery programs throughout the state of Michigan. Our support and partnership with Ten16 Recovery Network program helped to provide a licensed outpatient substance use disorder therapist serving the students at Central Michigan University, Ferris State University, and Mid Michigan College. A current student participating in this service shared the following:

“I am not alone in my struggle, thanks to this program. I have an expert to help guide me. This is quite seriously a life changing program, and it is comforting to know that these services are available to help struggling college students like myself live a better life.”

Please know that we are working diligently to expand our roster of supported schools and extend our support to even more students striving to overcome their struggles with substance use disorder.

Thank you for your ongoing support and I look forward to keeping you posted on all our activities throughout the year.

If you have any questions or issues you would like to discuss, please contact me at [email protected]

Best regards,

Chris

Zach Berlin: A mother shares her son’s story to prevent opioid deaths

Zach Berlin was curious, charismatic, and approached life with an all-or-nothing mindset. He loved sports, especially football, and being outside with nature. At a young age he developed a strong interest in science. Smart and ambitious, Zach achieved his life-long goal of attending University of Michigan, graduating in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience.

But for someone who excelled in school with ease, college was an awakening and more challenging than anticipated. During those years, Zach and friends escaped stress by experimenting with drugs and alcohol, thinking they were invincible and telling themselves “This is college!”

Zack considered his opioid use recreational but due to their highly addictive nature, he eventually developed a substance use disorder (SUD). After graduating college at age 22, he moved home with his parents who did not notice his issue – partially because they were not looking for one.

“We had no idea,” said Sue Berlin, Zach’s mother. “We didn’t know much about addiction or opioids, so we never thought it might be a problem for our child. In retrospect, he always had a reason to borrow money and got into a few car accidents, but his explanations seemed to make sense.”

Sometimes symptoms of opioid use are difficult to identify. They often include drowsiness, cravings, flu-like symptoms, and new financial difficulties. Though because of stigma, individuals struggling with addiction hide their condition which prevents them from getting necessary treatment.

For these reasons, symptoms of opioid use can easily go undetected and loved ones are unsure how to help.

It wasn’t until Zach confided in his primary care doctor that family learned he was using. Even then, Sue and Zach’s father were unsure how to handle the situation. At this point, Zach wanted to get better and was committed to the process. He went through detox independently at home with support of his parents and decided to regularly see a therapist and psychiatrist.

Things were looking up – he was really excited about his first job selling insurance and new colleagues, but it wasn’t long until he realized this career path wasn’t the best fit for him. He maintained sobriety for just over a year before relapsing.

Having been through it once before, Zach’s parents knew signs to look for and Zach was less secretive about hiding them. His symptoms became more obvious to the household.

“He got really moody and would come home and randomly throw-up. He told more stories and worked every angle – this was not Zach. Then there were more car accidents, and he eventually got a DUI for sleeping while parked because he was high.”

Zach’s struggle with opioids was scary, uncertain, and left him and his loved ones feeling helpless. After an intervention from friends and family, Zach agreed to enter treatment.

“We felt very lost during the processes and transitions of him to go to rehab, getting out of treatment, and moving into recovery housing. We had some resources and did our own research, but we had never been through this before and were hoping to rely on support of those at the treatment center, which we didn’t end up getting.”

In November 2018, Zach moved into recovery housing in Ann Arbor – his home. With regular therapy and a new dream job as a research assistant, Zach was back to his big and bold personality and thriving!

He maintained sobriety for more than a year, but sadly on February 23, 2020, at only 27 years-old, Zach died after ingesting a fentanyl laced opioid.

“When you look at your sweet, funny, little boy having the time of his life playing in the dirt, you don’t think he will one day develop a drug addiction. Everyone says ‘That’s not us. That’s not my family’. But for us, it was.”

Sue and her family have supported the Jamie Daniels Foundation since 2020 when they began an annual Thanksgiving football game in memory of Zach. Since then, they have raised more than $10,000 in support of the foundation’s mission to reduce stigma and build recovery housing.

“We had many sober years of laughter and fabulous memories with Zach – he was my biggest protector and a great friend to many. We don’t remember him for how he died, but for how wonderful he was, so every year we celebrate him with those who loved him most, doing what he loved most.”

To make a gift in Zach’s memory, please click here.

If you or a loved one is looking for help, please visit safelocator.org

Building momentum during challenging times

In 2021, COVID-19 continued to disrupt all of our lives while creating unique challenges for one in 10 adults in America who are struggling with Substance Use Disorder. And tragically, over 100,000 lost their lives to overdose in the past year.

These startling facts serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of our mission to provide resources and support to children, teens, young adults and their families in their battle with Substance Use Disorder. With your help, we have invested in programs that prevent substance abuse, aid those in recovery, and reduce the stigma associated with this disease.

Thanks to the generosity of caring people like you, we expanded our collegiate recovery support at Michigan State University and added three more schools to our roster of collegiate recovery programs. Grant support from the Jamie Daniels Foundation enables access to counseling, the development of recovery-oriented programming to meet student needs, dedicated recovery space on campus, and safe and healthy housing options.

Another important aspect of our mission is to reduce the stigma associated with Substance Use Disorder. We believe that by promoting an accurate understanding of Substance Use Disorder, we can reduce the barriers associated with seeking help and create awareness that makes early intervention possible. This effort is achieved through engaging parents, teachers, community members, and the media. Examples range from our sponsorship of an education campaign during National Recovery Month, distribution of Deterra bags for the proper disposal of medication, promotion of Narcan training, as well as various speaking engagements with community organizations and the media.

Earlier this year we also achieved a significant milestone with our first ever hire! This summer, Chris Perry joined our team as Executive Director of the Jamie Daniels Foundation. He brings a wealth of experience, knowledge, and passion to the organization. We were also excited to add Marilyn Bartley, Substance Use Disorder advocate and child well-being champion, to our Board of Trustees. We’re confident that the additional experience and expertise Chris and Marilyn bring will allow us to build on our momentum and continue to grow our impact.

We also successfully hosted our Third Annual Celebrity Roast presented by Delta Dental with guest of honor, NHL Hall-of-Famer Brett Hull. The event was great fun, providing a night of laughs and entertainment and raising $370,000 – a 25% increase from last year! The Roast also generated awareness awareness of Substance Use Disorder and shared tragic personal stories to enforce how this disease does not discriminate.

Looking forward, you’ll see an expansion of the Jamie Daniels Foundation’s efforts to enable substance use prevention, aid those in recovery, and reduce the stigma associated with Substance Use Disorder.

Throughout this challenging year, we have been extremely thankful for your continued support. It is because of you, we are doing more to create change and help individuals and families have fulfilling and healthy lives. Thank you for being with us on this journey – we wish you a safe, healthy and Happy New Year.


Sincerely,

Ken Daniels and Lisa Daniels-Goldman, co-founders

Building healthy, smart, vibrant communities for all means ending the opioid epidemic

For the third consecutive year, Delta Dental is participating as the presenting sponsor of the Jamie Daniels Foundation’s Celebrity Roast. We sat down with Margaret Trimer, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana to talk about why Delta Dental continues to support this event, what the dental profession has to do with substance use disorder (SUD), and why she has been inspired to become personally involved with the foundation. Her expertise and thoughtfulness on this important topic are obvious. Here’s what she had to say:

Why is this event so important for Delta Dental to continue their support?

You cannot have a healthy community if you have a high degree of substance misuse.  Delta Dental wants a bright future for Michigan – and that’s why we are involved.

If we are going to fulfill our mission, we must address the issues associated with substance misuse. The Jamie Daniels Foundation Celebrity Roast is one way to bring necessary awareness to SUD. This broadcasted event puts the power of information into countless hands and helps raise necessary funds so that the use and misuse of substances can be prevented, and lives, families, and communities can be saved.

What does the dental profession have to do with substance use disorder and the opioid epidemic?

In 2018, Delta Dental was in the throes of trying to figure out our position on the opioid crisis, recognizing first and foremost that we needed to be part of the solution. The first time many individuals may have met an opioid is when they’re getting their wisdom teeth removed. For years, dentists were giving pain killers not realizing their addictive risks. We have learned that dental professionals must watch their practice, so they aren’t part of the problem.

What is Delta Dental doing to support the dental profession during this epidemic?

At Delta Dental, we are cognizant of communicating with both providers and members, encouraging the essential conversation between the two. We have continued to be keen on informing all constituents about opioids and their risks, participating in drug takeback days, and talking about other ways to alleviate pain from dental procedures.

We are seeing progress across the profession, but Delta Dental wouldn’t necessarily take credit for that – there has been an ongoing national dialogue about the reality of opioids. Over the years, the level of intensity on this topic has heightened the awareness among professionals. As a result, we are seeing far less prescriptions for opioids and fewer pills being given inside of a prescription. Use and misuse of opioids for pain has been curbed, which is good news.

But there’s still a lot of concern. The pandemic has increased substance misuse, and though people aren’t necessarily getting them in prescription form, there is a lot of access on the street to opioids and other drugs. Unfortunately, this crisis doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Though there is better control of the danger zones within the dental profession, Delta Dental persists in its involvement to eliminate the crisis as a whole.

In 2021, you joined the Jamie Daniels Foundation Board of Trustees. Why was it important to you to become a more active participant within the organization?

I have been moved by Jamie’s story, but I also recognize that his story is not isolated. There are so many families struggling with SUD. Some have paid the ultimate price and have lost a loved one; some still have the chance to save their loved ones or themselves. The Daniels family and their suffering should count, and Jamie’s life should not be in vain.

Jamie’s story and the Jamie Daniels Foundation has the potential to create high impact in helping families that are navigating the recovery side of substance misuse. Its message should be amplified across Michigan and beyond. This is very much about taking charge and managing this issue. To build something from the ground up is a rare opportunity. It is a very exciting to think about the potential Jamie Daniels Foundation has to create incredible impact, and I want to be part of that.

On a personal level, what would you like to share on this topic?

It is important for us to deal with the issue of stigma and shame for both family members and the individuals who are struggling with SUD. We have forever looked at SUD as not a disease, but a bad behavior that is born out of bad parenting or a bad family life. And I am here to say that my family has been affected, and my family is a pretty awesome family. Ken and Lisa are amazing parents and they dealt with this. People are affected with a high income or low income – this disease is not discriminating.

The judgement that people levy against families struggling with this is unfair and it must stop so we can have the kind of open and honest, problem-solving conversations. Because if you fear judgement, if you put your problem in the closet, you’ll never get to the other side or have the hope that is possible.

As a premier administrator of dental benefits, Delta Dental of Michigan is also a leading partner in preventing opioid abuse and is invested in recovery efforts that provide real, long-term change.

To learn more about Delta Dental, click here.

Photographed: Margaret Trimer, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana

To support the Jamie Daniels Foundation Celebrity Roast of Brett Hull, tune into Bally Sports Detroit on Monday, November 22 at 8pm or livestream on our website. Our silent auction is currently open for bidding, here.

Karen & Nikolas: A story of loss and hope during the opioid epidemic

Karen Ford-Stein with her late son, Nikolas Goyke

When Karen Ford-Stein talks about her son, Nikolas Goyke, she describes him as funny, always laughing, smart, studious, compassionate…and a huge hockey fan! He was in college and thriving, surrounded by supportive and loving friends and family. His entire future was ahead of him.

Unfortunately, on March 8, 2018, at only 22 years old, he lost his battle with substance use disorder after an opioid overdose.  His death is one of countless that can be attributed to the drug crisis gripping our nation. In fact, in 2020, drug overdose deaths reached a record high of 93,331 – that’s 20,000 more than the previous high in 2019.

Karen and other family members will remember Nik by sharing his story on November 22, during the Jamie Daniels Foundation’s Celebrity Roast of Brett Hull.

Their goal: to bring awareness to substance use disorder, reduce stigma of the disease, and help raise funds for those struggling. 

Karen recently sat down with us to talk about her son and share why it was so important she supports the Jamie Daniels Foundation and participates in the televised event. Here’s what she had to say: 

How did you learn about Jamie Daniels Foundation?

In 2019, a friend of Nik’s from kindergarten decided to plan a fundraising event in his honor and the proceeds benefitted the Jamie Daniels Foundation. I had never heard of JDF before, but immediately threw my support behind it after learning about Jamie’s story. I felt connected to the organization’s mission and goals. Since Nik was such a hockey fan, this felt like a natural fit.

Why have you decided to support Jamie Daniels Foundation?

What struck me about JDF is their goal to build a supportive housing project for individuals with substance use disorder. Based on experience, Ken and Lisa know what individuals and families need during these uncertain times. Their perspective can help make sure individuals and families going through this get the proper care and counsel so lives can be saved.

There were a lot of unknowns as our family was going through the treatment and recovery experience. You don’t think something like this will ever happen to you so you’re unprepared and uninformed. You trust these facilities to help you make the right decisions and sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Recovery is an industry. We didn’t know how to navigate the situation and learned important lessons too late – this is an unfortunate reality for a lot of people.

Why do you feel it is important to share your family’s story during The Roast?

Losing a child like this brings pain that never goes away. The only way I can navigate the grief is by hopefully changing the outcome for someone else. It has been almost four years since Nik passed away. I’ve been searching for the right opportunity to make a difference for others, so when I was approached to be on the Roast, I immediately said yes.

If sharing my family’s story can stop one person, kid, or family from going through this kind of tragedy, it will be worth it to me. I will grieve my son for the rest of my life, but he didn’t die in vain, and I am determined to use our experience to create change.

What message do you want to share with readers about substance use disorder?

In his early teens, Nik was prescribed an opioid after having surgery. To me, it was a legal drug that the doctor advised he take for pain relief. I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t realize how harmful it could be. But it is.

Substance use disorder can affect anyone, and everyone thinks they are invincible to it. We need to have the tough conversations and stop shaming and stigmatizing those suffering because then the problem just continues.

My kids are my favorite topic of conversation, and I will never be ashamed of Nik’s story. I want everyone to understand these risks so they can protect our loved ones.

What do you think Nikolas would be saying about what you are doing?

Nik was so fun and had such a big heart. He would be very happy we are talking about him and sharing our experience to help others. I can imagine him smiling down on us, laughing, and thinking how cool it is that his hockey buddies see him connected to this event. I know he’d never want to see anyone else go through this and would be proud we are sharing his story; he would hope this makes a real impact – we all do.

You can hear Karen and Nik’s father, David, share their story during the Celebrity Roast of Brett Hull on Monday, November 22. Tune into on Bally Sports Detroit at 8pm or visit our website to livestream the event.

If you’d like to make a gift in memory of Nikolas Goyke, click here.