Since losing their son to a heroin overdose almost eight months ago, Terrie and Dale Batdorff have tasked themselves with stopping others from getting caught in the throes of opiate addiction.
The Jackson Township parents have been speaking out about addiction and the importance of seeking help. Most recently they've taken their message to , where they spoke to about 25 people Thursday night as part of an opiate town hall meeting.
The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board (MHRSB) and Quest Recovery and Prevention Services hosted the meeting as the final in a county-wide series.
The Batdorffs, featured in the Canton Repository in October 2011, shared a tribute video about their son Dustin, explained their frustrations with trying to find him professional help and then told the gripping story of the day the 21-year-old Jackson High School graduate died.
They said Dustin had moved away in summer 2010 and moved back in July 2011 as a full-blown opiate addict who admitted he wanted help. Terrie, unfamiliar with drug addiction and not sure where to turn, called any place she thought might be able to help her son.
"The responses always seemed to be 'We're full,' or 'We're not taking any new patients,' or 'We don't take your insurance,'" she said. "I finally found a place that would take Dustin, but they couldn't take him for a month. So we were on pins and needles. I knew that he needed help immediately."
The family did get Dustin into a clinic for help and felt reassured that everything would be OK. But, Dustin decided to take "one last ride" before his treatment started.
He died Sept. 25, 2011, of a heroin overdose.
The mother found her son laying on the floor of his bedroom in a pool of vomit, his face blue, before giving him CPR. He was unresponsive.
"I knew at that point he was gone," Terrie said. "He was dead."
Terrie called Dale to relay the tragic news. He was out for breakfast and rushed home to find Jackson Township emergency responders at his house.
After looking into the eyes of one Jackson Township paramedic, Dale was certain his wife's words were true.
"I could tell he was a father, and he looked me straight in the eye and I just knew. I just knew that my son was dead. There was nothing said. I got down there and as I entered the room, there he was laying on the floor. I dropped to my knees and I picked him up in my arms and prayed for him. There was nothing I could do."
"I asked the Lord to take him, and at that moment, when I basically gave my son to Jesus Christ, I felt an overwhelming sense that a presence had entered the room and it just rocked me to my soul and said 'You do whatever you have to do so that no parent will ever have to go through this again.'"
And, while many families choose to leave the unpleasantness out of their loved ones' obituaries, the Batdorffs were honest. They wrote that Dustin died of a heroin overdose in the hopes that it might save a life.
The family will host a "Dropkick Addiction" fundraiser June 8 at Rivertree Christian Church, with the proceeds going toward the new group, SOLACE — Surviving Our Loss and Continuing Every Day.
SOLACE is a new Stark County support group that works with people and families affected by prescription medication addiction, advocates for policy change of environmental conditions that encourage drug use and mobilizes communities to affect change.
Find out more through the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Stark County.