Heroin Highway: Part 2 - A father's heartbreak
WASHINGTON (ABC7) —
7 ON YOUR SIDE takes you on an emotional and eye opening journey this week along the new so-called "heroin highway."
The area includes stretches of interstates 70 and 81 that begin in Baltimore and travel through Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. With a decades old heroin stronghold in Baltimore, just up the road, what happens to communities in the face of nationwide heroin epidemic? No one is blaming Baltimore for the local wave of heroin abuse, but police in multiple nearby cities say their heroin addicts are driving to Baltimore sometimes twice daily to purchase the deadly drug.
In part two of this week-long series, we meet Kevin Simmers. His story painfully captures just how devastating the epidemic has become along the heroin highway.
"HEROIN HIGHWAY" PART TWO - A FATHER'S HEARTBREAK
"My face was the face of law enforcement in Washington County because I was right downtown. Everybody knew me."
Kevin Simmers is a former Hagerstown Police Sergeant. He worked narcotics for years. He was a solider in the drug war, but then heroin struck.
"The heroin epidemic is off the charts. It's unlike any drug or epidemic that I have ever seen in my career," Simmers said.
It changed him and his life forever.
Through tears he said, "When it got in my house and my own daughter got addicted.I just couldn't help her."
His daughter Brooke was the smiling little love of his life who grew into a beautiful athletic teenager. Simmers described her as defiant and determined to fly on her own.
Simmers said Brooke came to him the summer after her senior year of high school and told him she had started taking prescription pain pills.
Her pain pill addiction quickly morphed into a deadly addiction to heroin. Heroin, like prescription narcotics, is an opioid, but is cheaper and more accessible in recent times.
Simmers said, "I am telling ya when it got a hook in my daughter...it robbed her of her soul. She loved her heroin, make no mistake about it."
"My daughter meant everything in the world to mem, and she came to me asking to please help her and make this go away," he explained.
Simmers and his wife looked near and far for treatment centers. At times driving hours away to get her help. The father said dropping her off at some of the locations was almost unbearable.
He said, "We took her to a halfway house and dropped her off...this is a place I wouldn't drop my dog off."
Finding effective treatment options in places where Brooke felt safe, Simmers said, was almost impossible.
Meanwhile, Brooke continued to relapse.
Simmers said he'll never forget one night, "I caught her sneaking out one night she was on the front lawn in a fetal position begging me to shoot her because she said she couldn't stop using."
Eventually, Brooke was able to break free from heroin, because she had to. She was sent to jail for possession of needles. She had to spend three and a half months behind bars, but that also meant three and a half months with no heroin.
When she was released, her father said he warned her explicitly, "She was using a gram of heroin a day before she went to jail and we talked if you go back to using a gram now it is going to be toxic, it's going to kill you and she knew that."
But heroin's hold wasn't finished. Ten days after Brooke got out of jail, she went to her dealer's house. Simmers later learned the details of what happened once she got there. He said she shot up the first time and lost consciousness.
"Then they give her more heroine. About two or three hours later, they shot her up again, and this time she overdosed again, and they threw her out of the house," he explained.
Simmers said Brooke got in her car and managed to drive four miles to a church where she used to play basketball.
"On the church parking lot, she crawled into the back seat of her car, and she died," said Simmers.
It was April 13, 2015. Brooke was 19 years old. Three people pleaded guilty for their roles in delivering Brooke the deadly doses of heroin that day. Her deadly dance with heroin lasted only a year before it killed her.
Simmers said, "Listen I am very proud of my daughter. I am proud of the fight she put up. She lost her fight. She died as a heroin addict. I am here to tell you she was not a bad person."
Simmer's fight is far from over. Through tortuous pain, he holds onto his now firm belief: the key to ending the epidemic is treatment.
He said, "My view on the drug war is wrong. It's all bullshit. I feel like for 25 years as a police officer working narcotics and such I feel like I was wrong. I mean I locked people up who were in the same shape as my daughter and they needed help."
Kevin Simmers is trying to help in any way he can. He is raising money now and building a 5,000 sq. ft. home for women in substance abuse recovery, named: Brooke's House.
The father said of his daughter, "Even though she is gone, we are trying to do right by her. Like I said, she didn't want to be a drug addict."
If you would like to help Kevin and his quest to build Brooke's House, you can get more information here via these links:
Next stop on the Heroin Highway is Virginia. This will air Wednesday Feb. 17 at 5 p.m.
Also don't miss a special two-hour 7 ON YOUR SIDE phone bank this Friday. 7 ON YOUR SIDE brings the experts to you in the battle against heroin. Call in Friday with your questions and/or tips starting at 4:30 p.m.
And if you or someone you know needs help, check out our substance abuse resource page here.