PITTSTON — Carol Coolbaugh says her son is “one of those statistics” you read about when it comes to the drug epidemic.
“But he was much more than that,” she said. “He was my son, he was a father, he was a brother, he was a person.”
Coolbaugh, a prevention/education advocate, Luzerne County Coroner Bill Lisman, and Luzerne County Court Judge Michael Vough were part of a panel at an Opioid Fact Forum this week at the Pittston Memorial Library.
Residents learned about the dangers of opioid addiction and the terrible impact on families and loved ones through the stories of those who’ve seen the horrors firsthand.
Coolbaugh spoke about how drug addiction took her son’s life in 2009.
She shared his story to keep his memory alive and show the human nature of drug overdoses.
“I think your biggest fear is that the memory will be lost,” said Coolbaugh, who also is an advocate for GRASP (Grief Recovery After Substance Passing.)
Her mission is to help people take some positives out of a tragedy.
“I spent so much energy on trying to help my son that I didn’t know what to do with myself,” she said. “I was invited to speak at the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program right off the bat and it just made me feel good to share his story. And hopefully, his story will help someone.”
The forum was sponsored by the Pittston Knights of Columbus and its Jacquelines Ladies Auxiliary and was the idea of Knights member David Yonki.
“(The Knights) put me in charge of the family committee and that was the reason I decided to make it a little more relevant and bring these issues that we have in the 21st century to light,” Yonki said.
The moderator was Carmen Ambrosino, a 45-year addiction specialist and former CEO of Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services.
“Dave Yonki asked if I would moderate it because of my years in the field,” Ambrosino said.
Lisman shared his experiences as a coroner and all of the drug-related deaths he’s dealt with while Vough spoke about the people who’ve come before him in court for drug crimes.
Because of the significant turnout, Yonki said the Knights will consider hosting similar events in the future.
“I’m heartened by the turnout and I am thrilled by the turnout, mainly because of the fact that people in this community care,” he said.
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher