A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows one in 10 adults in the U.S. have lost a family member to a drug overdose with more than 110,000 lives lost to this in 2022.
Mother and son, Julia Nixon and 10-year-old Saul O’Brien, are connecting with families who’ve lost loved ones to drug overdoses. They lost three family members from accidental overdoses. Saul’s father Steven is the most recent one. He died last July.
“It's definitely been rough to see what it's done like as far as him. It’s been difficult,” Nixon said. “I know my son loved his dad, so it's been hard to have to explain why he’s without.”
What You Need To Know
- Comfort Zone Camp (CZC) is a national nonprofit organization with programs for grieving kids, parents, and guardians free of charge
- Since 2021, the camp has seen a 30% increase in people dealing with overdose related losses, leading them to create programming specifically for this
- According to the State Office of Addiction Services and Supports and the State Comptroller’s Office, the number of New Yorkers who died by overdose rose from more than 5,800 people in 2021 to more than 6,300 in 2022
The family was introduced to Comfort Zone Camp. It’s a national nonprofit organization with programs for grieving kids, parents, and guardians free of charge. The goal is to provide support through activities and connections. O’Brien attended a children’s camp through the organization in March.
“Do fun activities that involve coping skills,” O’Brien said. “We're actually having fun and playing like games with each other.”
CZC has been doing this for 24 years at locations around the country. Lynne Hughes, CZC founder and CEO, created the camp after losing her parents when she was a child.
“I went to summer camp afterward, and I loved it. It was a magical bubble where you could get back to being a kid again, and I was also trying to make some sense of why my parents loss happened to me. So, combining my love of summer camp with kind of an unmet need in society, Comfort Zone Camp was born,” Hughes said.
Since 2021, the camp has seen a 30% increase in people dealing with overdose-related losses, leading them to create programming specifically for this. The camp was in New York for a session because, Hughes said there is a high number of opioid-related losses in the state.
“We really see kids blossom and grow and heal during the course of a weekend. We see them lighter and brighter just by having that opportunity to meet others who are like them,” Hughes said.
According to the State Office of Addiction Services and Supports and the State Comptroller’s Office, the number of New Yorkers who died by overdose rose from more than 5,800 people in 2021 to more than 6,300 in 2022.
Organizers and those in attendance are looking to change the way people look at overdose deaths by comforting one another.
“People who lose themselves to addiction are still people, and this is a pretty good example of showing that those people matter. It's easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of, ‘oh, a drug addict’s this, a drug addict’s that,’ but these people were loved by people,” Nixon said.
CZC has both in-person and virtual programs for specific types of loss and general bereavement. To learn more information, you can visit comfortzonecamp.org.