With a heavy heart, Ken Daniels is on a mission to save lives.
The Detroit Red Wings television broadcaster says he will never get over the loss of his 23-year-old son, Jamie, to an opioid overdose in December 2016, but he is following a “calling,” to share lessons from his painful story in the hope others don’t experience the same fate.
“If 10 people in this room tell 10 people, who tell 10 people, we can end this (expletive),” Daniels said during an emotional Livonia Chamber of Commerce program involving 150 business people and high school students February 27 at Schoolcraft College.
He said Jamie struggled with addiction to opioids as a young adult and his family moved him into several treatment programs. Daniels said he tried to hide his son’s battle from people other than closest relatives. He acknowledged his family made some regrettable decisions in handing Jamie’s treatment to hide the family from “embarrassment.”
Daniels said people need to be honest about mental health and addiction because the casualties continue to skyrocket in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 70,200 nationally died from drug overdoses in the in 2017. That figure was less than 17,000 in 1999.
He said people are open to discussing cardiac, digestive, even erectile health issues, but uncomfortable discussing mental health issues.
“For some reason, we have no problem talking about issues from the neck, down, yet there is a stigma about talking about issues from the neck, up,” Daniels said. “That has got to stop!”
He said a person can be addicted to drugs in as little as five days. He said if a doctor’s prescription seems to be more than necessary – such as pain-killers for teeth extractions – parents and patients should ask questions. Daniels added the same scrutiny should be applied for prescribed anti-anxiety or attention-deficit medications.
Empathy is the key in supporting those in the throes of addiction. A judgmental response to those in this fight does no good because “addicts do not want to be addicts,” he said.
Daniels’ presentations raise money for the Jamie Daniels Foundation Fund, administered by the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation. He hopes to build new treatment facilities and coaching programs in southeastern Michigan for those battling addiction – realizing it’s a long-term effort.
“You are never completely cured from addiction,” Daniels said. “These people need continuous support to stay clean.”
Karen Bonnano, who leads substance abuse initiatives for the Livonia Save Our Youth Coalition, found great value in the Daniels program. She hopes those who heard the message will advance conversations in schools and homes.
“As families discuss their history of cancer and heart disease, families need to have the same discussion about the history of addiction,” Bonanno said.
“We will rally around a family who has a relative dealing with cancer; however, when we hear a family is dealing with an addiction problem, we shy away.”
“What can we do as a community to reach out and support these families, too?”