A New Jersey funeral home owner's explicitly titled essay about the overwhelming number of deaths he's seeing due to opioid overdoses and the havoc the drug epidemic is wreaking on families is resonating powerfully with people in the community.
In a blog post titled "F**k You, Opioids," Peter Kulbacki, the owner of the Brunswick Memorial Home, writes about how he's personally seen the devastating effects of addiction. It's been shared on Facebook nearly 500 times in three days.
"Every month we get overdose calls, and from personal experience I'm telling you it's truly getting worse," he writes. "Middlesex County is ranked one of the top 4 counties in New Jersey for opioid overdoses. I speak to local police officers who are issued 2 doses of Narcan at the beginning of their shifts, and have to come back to the station before their shift is over because they've already used the initial 2 doses. True story."
I am witness to the parents left with inexplicable grief. I am witness to the spouses left to carry the emotional and economic burden of raising a family alone. I am witness to the children who are left wondering, 'Why?'"
I see the emotional devastation left behind. I am pained to hear these tragic stories. The failed stints in rehab. The relapses. The torn and wrecked families. I’m distressed to walk family and friends to a casket containing the broken dreams of a life lost. I’m tired of getting calls from people I personally know telling me their son or daughter was found somewhere having OD’d.
I know addiction is a disease. It doesn’t respect title, your station in life, your socioeconomic status, or anything else. Trust me… I’ve seen it all. F**K you opioids.
Local residents responded instantly to the searing essay, relating their own experiences with the epidemic. On the funeral home's Facebook page, the post took off and was shared hundreds of times.
"Peter, well said. But how do we go on after losing someone who was loved by so many?" Bernadette Rosenberger wrote. "Losing my son to this horrible addiction. Watching his brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmother, nieces and all the other family and friends struggle with the loss of losing him... it changes not only the addict's life but everyone else who knew him. I pray every night for a cure... God bless from a forever broken mom."
Others wrote of similar tragedies and the aftermath of dealing with their losses.
Kulbacki told News 4, "I've been doing this a long time. Five or six years ago, we have seen done five or six deaths a year [from opioid overdose]. Now, in the last two or three years, we're doing two, three a month, sometimes more."
"When my phone rings, I never know what's on the other end -- but we are increasingly seeing opioid related deaths, whether the death certificate says it or not," he added, noting that some deaths classified as suicides often have complicated back stories that involve addiction.
New Jersey's drug crisis is so pronounced that Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to make it the focus of his last year in office.
Nearly 1,600 people in New Jersey died from drug overdoses in 2015, an increase of about 20 percent over 2014, according to data from the state medical examiner's office. Most of those came from opioids, including heroin and fentanyl.
The tri-state at large has been dealing with an alarming spike in overdose deaths: on Wednesday, the Staten Island district attorney said 13 people there died of overdoses in the last three weeks. New York City saw an all-time high of 1,374 overdose deaths in 2016 -- a 46-percent increase of 2015, according to NYC health data.