Personal stories put faces on growing U.S. opioid epidemic | SteamboatToday.com

Personal stories put faces on growing U.S. opioid epidemic

Austin Eubanks who works for The Foundry will be one of two featured speakers at the RX Task Force Lunch & Learn Community Lunch Wednesday. He was a junior at Columbine High School when the Columbine shooting took place and the aftermath of the experience led to Eubanks' prescription drug addiction. He has now been sober five years and is using his experience as part of his position overseeing operations at The Foundry.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Jeremiah Lindemann and Austin Eubanks are two men with very different stories tied together by a common thread. Both men will be speaking Wednesday during the second RX Task Forces’s Lunch and Learn series focusing on opioid addiction.

Lindemann is a geospatial analyst who used his talents to start the interactive map, Celebrating Lost Loved Ones, as a way of addressing his own grief. He lost his brother Jameson Tanner “J.T.” Lindemann 10 years ago to an accidental opioid overdose.

"It wasn't on the news much; it was really something that wasn't talked about, and I was kind of uncomfortable," Lindemann said about his brother's death. "So I didn't talk about it at all, and I kept it to myself for a long time.” 

But Lindemann, who worked for a software company, came up with an idea to create an interactive map.

"I was confused, and I really didn't know what to do," he said about trying to help after his brother's death, "I think it was probably three years ago when I started seeing all this data, and thought, well, I can turn this into maps. That was kind of my tipping point in that this was my outlet — how I could speak about it."

The interactive map  he created is not a scientifically based way of looking at the epidemic, but instead, it’s a way for loved ones to post photographs and stories about the people they have lost. It is a way of putting faces on a problem that reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S.

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"Originally, I had a different version of the map where people emailed me a photo and I would kind of do it by hand," he said. "The current version, the one that you see now, has a button where people can go and upload a photograph and a bio. It's all done automatically."

Today the map includes about 1,200 names — each representing a different story, a different life that has ended because of opioid abuse. Lindemann said it is sobering because each of those photographs represents the loss of a family member, a friend and a community member.

On Wednesday, Lindemann will share his story at the noon Lunch and Learn event at Bud Werner Memorial Library’s Library Hall, and he will be joined by Eubanks, chief operating officer for The Foundry, a treatment program based in Steamboat Springs.

Eubank’s story began more than 16 years ago when he hid under a table in the library of Columbine High School and watched as his best friend and several classmates were killed by teenage gunmen.

Eubanks survived the tragedy at Columbine but was left with bullet wounds to his knee, injuries to his hand and emotional damage that sent him down a road that led to psychotropic drugs and addiction to painkillers and other medications.

“I think one of the big statistics that people need to be aware of is that opioid medication, and any opioid, is profoundly more effective at short-term treatment of the symptoms of emotional pain than it is physical pain,” Eubanks said. “But, a lot of people are not aware of that, so they don’t realize when they have a physical injury and are going to take an opioid, but, because I have had a recent divorce, or whatever the emotional pain might be, they are gong to be much more susceptible to developing a habit. I think that education is really, really important for the general public to hear.”

Eubanks, who was vice president of marketing and development for a Front Range company before moving to Steamboat, came here to work for The Foundry. He is now using his story and experiences to help others dealing with addiction problems.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

If you go:

What: Rx Task Force Lunch and Learn series

When: noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11

Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library, Library Hall, 1289 Lincoln Ave.

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