On April 20, 2016, my 20-year-old son, Emmett J. Scannell lost his battle to Substance Use Disorder and died due to a heroin overdose. Emmett was the average American teen; he loved video games and BMX biking. He was a caring, funny, smart young man with the potential for greatness. He was the adored older brother to Zachary (age 18) and Alice (age 9). He had a smile and charm that could light up a room – but heroin stole that from him.
As teenagers often do, Emmett experimented with marijuana in high school, but after a bad experience with a synthetic substance referred to as “spice” or “K2,” he entered recovery and was sober for his Junior and Senior year of high school. Emmett went graduated from Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School in May of 2014 as a National Honor Society scholar with a 4.27 GPA. All of that seems irrelevant now.
In September of 2014, Emmett went off to Worcester State University to study Computer Science. His biggest worry at that time was leaving his high school sweetheart behind. Within six weeks of beginning college, heroin entered Emmett’s life – and in eighteen short months stole him from us. During these long months, I did everything in my power to help him, and if love alone could have saved him – Emmett would still be here. Unfortunately, in the early stages of his struggle with addiction, I was unaware of the trips he took to the hospital due to overdoses – HIPAA laws prevented me from accessing that information because he was eighteen. As Emmett’s disease progressed, adequate treatment programs were cost prohibitive (upwards of $30,000 out of pocket) and nothing beyond a 5-day detox program was considered “medically necessary.” Outpatient day programs, private counseling, even the monthly Vivitrol shot were no match for this disease.
Since losing my son three short weeks ago, I have been very open about the circumstances leading up to his death – about his struggle with Substance Use Disorder and specifically with heroin. This disease is not something to be ashamed of or hidden. I love my son, I am proud of my son; I will not hide his story. Substance Use Disorder is a disease that has to be brought out into the light and addressed. We are losing loved ones every day to this horrible epidemic. I have vowed not to let my son’s death be in vain. I will work to Stop the Stigma, Promote Awareness, Promote Education, Early Intervention and Prevention and lobby for Access to Treatment for all Suffering from this disease. I always told Emmett that he was my sunshine – I will continue to shine that light into the lives of others in his honor.