My son Will died from fentanyl poisoning on September 15, 2020 and his substance use disorder exposed troubling truths...

My son Will Burruss, age 22, was found in his room at an Oxford House designed in principle to support recovery, lifeless the night of September 17, 2020, from fentanyl poisoning. Will had died two days earlier. The only reason he was found then was because his roommates thought they were smelling gas and searched the house which brought them to his door.  Will died in a space that was meant to keep him safe and watch over him.  What I have learned in our loss is troubling; society’s stigma of addiction is a deep-rooted prejudice; institutional fragmentation challenges the road to recovery; the lack of oversight on aspects of recovery where one expects more; and finally, I do not see the needed outrage over an epidemic that is claiming the lives of our loved ones at an alarming rate of 275 every day.  As a result of this experience and tragedy, I am advocating strongly for recovery residences that are uncertified in Virginia to get certified or be recognized by State agencies and institutions as not being certified. Drugs today have a higher level of toxicity and are more lethal, so we need to act to ensure our loved ones in rehab have the greatest opportunity to succeed in their recovery.

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Uncertified recovery residences need to be certified in accordance with the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) minimal standards for recovery homes that have been updated three times since 2011, in order to: 1) receive State funding as a recovery residence; 2) be recognized as a recovery residence by a government agency or government supported institution; and 3) be referred to by a government agency or institution. 

In July 2017 the city of Delray Beach Florida required certification for all recovery residences housing 4 or more unrelated individuals. A year later after this rule was implemented the city of Delray Beach witnessed a significant 60% decline in overdoses from 635 to 245. The city of Delray Beach also saw another 48% decrease in overdoses for the most recent year since this ordinance became law--Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Being with a loved one, reassuring and supporting them in tackling their addiction and recovery is a painful journey, deeply so.  Then for them to die from this terrible illness, leaves one with unimaginable grief combined with years of pain.  Recovery is complex and even when getting everything right, success is a challenge.

Duke

Richard "Duke" Burruss
Will's Dad