On the day her daughter died from an overdose, investigative reporter and news anchor Angela Kennecke was working on yet another story on the opioid crisis. “I spoke to three parents on that day,” she recalls. “I knew my daughter had a problem on that day. We were planning an intervention, I just didn’t know what it was she was using.”
As it turned out, Kennecke’s 21-year-old daughter, Emily Groth, had become addicted to heroin, and died from a fentanyl overdose on May 16. The last time the they spoke was Mother’s Day. “We were working to get her help,” she told CBS’s Gayle King, in an interview on Friday. “I just didn’t get there on time.”
After taking a few months’ leave to begin to recover, Kennecke returned to work on Wednesday with South Dakota CBS affiliate KELO and bravely fronted the camera to share her story of loss. “I have an obligation to speak about it,” she told King of the extraordinary local TV segment. “My number one reason for talking about it is to erase the stigma surrounding addiction, especially heroin, opioids.”
After years of asking other people to open up about their tragedies and triumphs, she felt it was the least she could do — for everyone who’d ever shared their stories with her, and to create something helpful in the wake of her devastation.
I'm issuing a personal plea to end the stigma surrounding addiction and a call for action regarding the opioid crisis! pic.twitter.com/Ayxlf43UQm
— Angela Kennecke (@AngelaKennecke) September 5, 2018
It took Kennecke some time to work out what was going on with her daughter, she says. “As parents we think we can isolate or insulate our children from these kinds of things, we do all kinds of things to try to protect them, but after a certain point parents don’t have as much influence, and peers have a lot of influence.”
Even recognizing there were external influences affecting Emily’s life, Kennecke was still taken by surprise. “It was the most shocking thing to me. Needles. Middle-class kid, privileged, you know all these opportunities,” she says. “I just feel so compelled to let everybody know what happened to my daughter can happen to you, can happen to your child.”
The CDC estimates overdoses killed more than 72,000 people last year and it has become the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.
“Trust your instincts,” Kennecke advises, also suggesting we need “so much less judgment, more compassion.” Below, watch Kennecke’s interview with Gayle King on CBS This Morning.
Read the full story at CBS.