Mid-Shore Goes Purple: The Funeral Director’s Perspective with Kirk Helfenbein

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According to Kirk Helfenbein, part of the management team at Fellows, Helfenbein & Newnam Funeral Homes on the Mid-Shore, his firm helped with more than twenty families last year with funerals of loved ones lost to the current opioid epidemic. While many of the deceased lived on the Shore, others were brought home from other parts of the country after losing their lives as a result of a drug overdose.

Not a month goes by without at least one or two services being held for the victims of this horrific plague, and with each case, the toil of family and loved ones is almost too painful to describe as they prematurely mourn the death of teens and adults alike. That is one of many reasons that Kirk and Helfenbein, and Newnam Funeral Homes, have devoted their staff and resources to support the Mid-Shore Goes Purple campaign.

The Spy talked to Kirk last week in Chestertown about his own experience helping these families and his personal commitment in going purple for September and organizing a race on September 9th to help bring a new level of awareness to the community of this tragic wave of death hitting all parts of the Mid-Shore.

This video is approximately is three minutes in length. For more information about the race please go here

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Letters to Editor

  1. Great first person interview.
    If I may suggest, talking to families that have experienced the pain and are willing to share or first respondents with experience of assisting in overdose recovery. Also people in rehab may give an understanding to others on why.

  2. Rondi Jensen Howell says:

    My family knows first-hand about the heartbreak of losing a family from drug overdose. We watched the metamorphosis and decline of my niece Jessica. Kirk Helfenbien is right when he points out how many overdose deaths occur just after a rehab stay. Addicts think they can continue with the same dosages of their drug of choice and overdose. This is what happened with Jessica. We watched and observed her personality change as her drug use increased with the types of drugs she chose.
    Her drug use began in high school with recreational drinking and experimenting with cocaine. Over the years her drug use escalated to stronger drugs to seek that ultimate high. This pattern of use is not uncommon. Along with the drug use comes personality change until the family no longer recognizes the addict. When Jessica was found deceased in a “shooting parlor” she was battered, bruised, and broken. The funeral director had a difficult time in applying makeup so that her family would recognize her as she lay in her casket. Jessica’s brother and sister bought her clothes in which to be buried. My sister, Jessica’s mother, was devastated and distraught over the loss of her first born child. Her spirit has been changed forever.
    The way in which drug abuse is treated must change in order for treatment to be effective. Insurance companies must realize that 28 day programs are not working. It is not enough to remove the drugs. Intense therapy must occur to attempt to alter the mindset of the addict. Drugs such as heroin and fentanyl effect the addict biologically and mentally. In addition, the addict must leave the area and lifestyle and be surrounded with support of family and friends. Finally, the addict must desire to change in order to leave drugs behind. I wish we had known these important points then. It is heartbreaking that our family failed to see the signs or just didn’t want to admit what was occurring right in plain sight.

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