Local advocates of addiction recovery and treatment speak about their efforts in South Jersey in the Aug. 21 edition of People magazine, out on stands Thursday.
Bill Schmincke, of Egg Harbor Township, talks about losing his son to heroin addiction and starting the Stop the Heroin organization with his wife, Tammy, in People’s “Special Report Faces of Heroin” feature.
“It’s very humbling and exciting,” Schmincke said. “We never stop trying to reach out, through the media or by using social media, to continue getting the word out there. It’s hard for me to take my foot off the pedal.”
The Schminckes lost their son, Steven, 26, in March 2016 to a heroin overdose, leaving two daughters behind. They found him unresponsive in their home Easter weekend.
The couple started Stop the Heroin soon after, promoting addiction education and awareness and raising money to help people transition to sober-living homes after detox and rehabilitation. Schmincke said they just placed their 108th person into sober living.
“It’s exciting to talk with some of them who reach out later and tell us how well they’re doing,” he said. “We hear about the ones who have relapses, too, that’s going to happen — but we keep doing what we’re doing to help.”
The organization opened its own sober living home for men in Pleasantville in December. Schmincke said they have a goal to open more homes, including ones for women, in the future, but a lack of state oversight and regulations for sober-living homes has placed barriers for organizations.
People magazine features 130 people who died in the United States this year so far from opioid overdoses and talks to addiction experts, law enforcement and people such as the Schminckes, who have been touched personally by the epidemic and are trying to help others in their community.
Atlantic County had 85 drug overdose deaths in 2015, according to the state Medical Examiner’s report. Statewide, there were 1,587 overdose deaths that year.
The Schminckes are busy with organization events, fundraisers and advocate initiatives, all the while raising their two granddaughters. Schmincke said the conversation about what happened to their dad hasn’t come up yet, but as they get older and more aware, it won’t be long.
One of the best things to come out of the organization, Schmincke said, is collaborating with other South Jersey treatment centers, organizations, advocates, recovery survivors and others to offer the best help for people suffering from opioid addiction and their families.
And he couldn’t have done it without his wife of 35 years, he said.
“She’s wonderful. I’m so blessed to have a wife like Tammy,” he said. “She does a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, including talking to parents. She still struggles a lot (with Steven’s death), but my granddaughters look up to her, and that’s so important. It’s her main thing now to be a good mother figure to the girls.”
Check your local store for copies of the Aug. 21 edition of People.