“The ultimate solution to ending the [opioid crisis] lies with my generation,” a 15-year-old Onamia young man said. And he is going to do everything he can to see it happen. With the help of his grandfather they are in the process of organizing a night of music, memories and education to honor the lives lost to overdoses and to celebrate the survivors of opioid drug addiction.
Kevin Harrington is a student at Onamia High School. He said he frequently goes out jogging or for walks in his neighborhood and at a local golf course. “I watch everything,” Kevin said. “A lot of the times I find used needles laying on the ground. It happens all the time. It is so sad.”
Kevin reports the found needles to the police department for proper disposal. He said he has seen the local opioid drug issues rapidly evolving over the past few years. “And it is not just opioids. It’s other drugs. It is everywhere.”
Kevin’s grandfather Brad Harrington has been involved in the Sober Squad group since its inception which is perhaps one reason Kevin is so adamant on finding a solution to the crisis.
“I have many friends – native Americans and non-native who are addicts. I have seen both whites and Indians die from overdoses,” Kevin said. “This has to stop. People think it is a problem just on the reservation, but it is way past that. Everybody is touched by this problem.”
While driving Kevin into town one day recently, the pair were having a conversation about life as they normally do. The drug problem came up and Kevin decided right then he was going to do something about it. The two of them put their heads together and came up with an event to draw more attention to not only those who have died, but also to the survivors.
Both Kevin and Brad are musicians playing a variety of instruments and vocals. They decided the event should be music related to draw a younger crowd.
“We will perform as a band on stage and are inviting other local musicians and singers to join us. Anyone who can play or sing is invited to participate on stage,” Brad said. The music portion can either be an open mic jam session format or, for those who would like to practice ahead of time, contact Brad to coordinate rehearsal times.
“We will have food of course,” Brad said with a smile. “We will be serving Indian tacos that everybody loves. Especially the young kids.”
In addition to the music and food, members of the law enforcement and health care communities have been asked to attend so they can answer questions and give informational speeches.
People are encouraged to bring framed photographs of loved ones who have lost their lives to overdoses to honor their lives.
“I think it will have a big impact if all of the photographs are displayed and set out on a table in the front of the room. Then people can see faces and not just numbers,” Kevin said.
Brad realizes not everyone who has a loved one gone from an overdose will be emotionally ready to bring a photograph out in public, but he is encouraging people to do so. “It may help people heal,” he added.
Kevin feels his generation can put a stop to the crisis and help the community to heal from addiction. “We need to say no to drugs, but also say no to the doctors who want to prescribe painkillers,” Kevin said.
In addition to the music, food and education portion of the event, the grandfather/son duo are hoping people will share their personal stories with the group on how they survived and give testimony on how the opioid crisis has affected their life and their family.
The Sober Night Memoriam is planed for May 16 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs Convention center. The event is free and open to the public.
“Everyone from the entire community is welcome,” Brad said. “We want everybody – non-native and native – to come and enjoy the music and sharing of information.”
For more information or to sign up to sing or be a part of the band contact Brad Harrington at (320) 455-2353.