An Open Letter to Senator McConnell: I lost my son to a drug overdose. Glorifying drug cartels is not funny.

My son Seth was a 19-year-old young adult, a freshman in college, had a job, was dating and just living his best life. December 3, 2014 he lost his life to a heroin overdose.

This devastated my whole family. How could this happen? Not knowing what to do or how to heal I turned towards my community because I just needed answers. I partnered with a local physician and developed a Narcan program. I became an advocate for Casey’s Law. I just started helping every Kentucky family I could.

What I found was a community overwhelmed by addiction. There are times I wonder how I keep doing what I’m doing because it just seems never-ending. Mothers, fathers, children, husbands and wives either begging for help for their loved one or to be in the presence of someone who understands their loss. At times I am overwhelmed with grief, and it’s not just mine. Today, I wear my son’s ashes in an urn around my neck because it reminds me why I stood up to make a change in my community, and now my state.

The pain of losing a loved is hard enough, but the stigma of losing a loved one to a drug overdose adds to the already unimaginable grief.

And that’s why I feel the need to speak out forcefully about your choice to sell “CocaineMitch” campaign shirts that encourages people to become a “cartel member.”

The shirts aren’t just offensive, they’re a painful and cruel joke to those of us grieving a terrible loss or fighting desperately to save a loved one.

The shirts are not acceptable anywhere, but in a state that is ground zero for opioid addiction, it is reprehensible. The sale of the shirts should stop immediately, and any funds raised should be donated to addiction recovery services in Kentucky.

I understand the use of the nickname was an attempt at injecting humor into an otherwise bizarre attack from a politician in another state. But it should have stopped there.

We all know about Kentucky’s long history with drug addiction and death. Whether it is pills, opioids, or some other drug, our streets and homes are filled to the brim with the aftermath of what real drug cartels have done to our state.

Are you even aware that Kentucky is 3rd in the nation in overdose deaths or that Kentucky has the 16th highest gun death rate amongst other states? Did you know that 96,000 Kentucky children are in the care of other relatives, many of them due to addiction and overdose deaths, and most of these relatives are grandparents living on Social Security?

How are parents, teachers, physicians, and others supposed advocate against drug use, and our legislators to pass bills for stiffer penalties for trafficking when the Senate Majority Leader is selling shirts glorifying drug use, organized crime, and violence?

You have lost your way Mitch McConnell. You are so far removed from your home state of Kentucky that it did not even occur to you how painful this would be to so many families here.

Stop the sale of the shirts and donate the money. That’s the least you can do at this point.

If you agree with me, please add your name to this petition I started asking McConnell to stop the sale of the shirts and donate the money: