August 08, 2017
As America's devastating opioid epidemic continues to tear through communities nationwide, one New Jersey funeral director let out his frustration this week in a powerful appeal to the community he serves.
Peter Kulbacki, who heads the Brunswick Memorial Funeral Home in East Brunswick, published a blog Monday afternoon — titled "F--- you, Opioids" — which he described as a break from the professional demeanor he must display toward grieving families.
What am I supposed to say when we get a call from someone telling me that a loved one has passed from an overdose? I’m sorry? Please accept my condolences? Yeah, that’s what I say, but you know what? My visceral response when I hang up the phone is, F**K you opioids.
Speaking as a witness to the "inexplicable grief" he sees in the families of overdose victims, Kulbacki praises the strength of survivors and urges his community to face the challenge of fighting addiction. Unfortunately, his experience tells him that the situation is getting worse.
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.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania are among the nation's hardest hit states. Between 2010 and 2015, New Jersey saw a 214 percent increase in deaths caused by heroin and morphine. Pennsylvania, in a disturbing trend led by the rise of fentanyl and related substances, saw a 37-percent increase in total overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016, according to recently released statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
As the situation worsens in communities across the country, many have worked to reframe the way we look at drug addiction by removing the stigma and focusing on its status as a legitimate illness. Philadelphia restaurateur Tony Luke Jr., who lost his son earlier this year to an opioid overdose, recently launched the #BrownandWhite social media campaign encouraging families to let the world know that their loved ones were not just a number.
Kulbacki, noting that Middlesex County is one of New Jersey's most troubled areas, thanked the organizations who provide services and called on everyone to commit to beating back the epidemic.
"We have to stand and fight …. as a community," Kulbacki said. "We have to beat this horrible monster."