Keister: We need to do more to save lives from overdoses


Don and Jeanne Keister are the co-founders of atTAcK addiction, a statewide, all-volunteer nonprofit that raises awareness of the disease of addiction, assists individuals and families with information and resources, and supports people living in recovery. To learn more, visit

By Don and Jeanne Keister

Last year, 537 people lost their lives to overdoses in Delaware.

They were young, filled with energy and enthusiasm and so much potential. They were middle-aged, with spouses, children and jobs. They were older, in retirement or nearing it, with adult children and grandchildren. They had colleagues, friends and neighbors. They were part of our community. They were loved — and they loved in return.

Too often, we forget all the personal stories, the family connections and the community ties. We simply see people who died from overdoses as a statistic — a number, unfortunately, that continues to increase in Delaware and across our country.

During International Overdose Awareness Day on Thursday — and throughout the year — we remember the thousands of people in Delaware lost to overdose as loved ones, friends, colleagues and neighbors. In the 10 years since atTAcK addiction was founded in 2013, more than 3,500 lives in Delaware have been unnecessarily lost as a tragic consequence of substance use disorder, a chronic brain disease that affects too many individuals and their families in our state and across the country. We join their families in mourning this painful loss, and we urge Delawareans to find and embrace new aggressive and progressive responses to the opioid epidemic as a way to save additional families from the same horrific personal toll.

We founded atTAcK addiction after we lost our son, Tyler Keister, to an accidental heroin overdose in December 2012. Since 2013, our grassroots organization has:

  • Raised awareness of the disease of addiction through education and events, including an annual 5K in March in Old New Castle, called the “E-Racing the Stigma 5K.”
  • Worked with then-Gov. Jack Markell and current Gov. John Carney, cabinet secretaries and legislators to approve multiple pieces of legislation, including the Good Samaritan/911 law, which provides that neither the person in medical distress from an overdose nor the person making the call can be arrested or charged with a low-level drug crime; plus the first-in-the-nation Prescription Opioid Impact Fund law, which provides a way to support Delawareans in need of treatment and recovery services that were not already being funded by state government.
  • Trained thousands of people in using naloxone, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.
  • Assisted thousands of families — many desperate for a way to save their loved ones — with resources, information and a connection to treatment.
  • Supported thousands of Delawareans in living a long and quality life in recovery, including through short-term stays in our four recovery residences. One of our goals is to bring a recovery residence to Kent County.

But, over the past 10 years, all of it hasn’t been enough to save thousands of families in our state from the same pain our family suffered when we lost Tyler.

So we ask you to join us.

Join us in commemorating International Overdose Awareness Day in Delaware. In remembering all the lives lost to the opioid epidemic. In talking with your children about the risk of addiction associated with opioids and other drugs, including alcohol and marijuana. In discussing alternatives to pain management with your medical provider. In cleaning out expired and unnecessary medications from your drug cabinets and dropping them off at designated collection sites. In getting trained in how to use naloxone and carrying a kit with you in case of emergency.

And, most importantly, in getting treatment for yourself or a loved one who is actively using by calling the Delaware Hope Line at 833-9-HOPEDE (833-946-7333) or visiting to find treatment services in Delaware or nearby states.

You can also commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day with atTAcK addiction as we host public events today from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Newark at Main Street and Old College Avenue, and beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday on the Georgetown Circle, to remember those who have died from overdose in Delaware, and also to provide prevention, treatment and recovery resources and support to the public.

Together, we all can do our part to prevent opioid misuse and save the next life.

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