An Oldham County family that lost a son and brother to a drug overdose has responded by fostering a drug-education program and a youth group, Amanda Manning reports for The Oldham Era.
Mason Reppen died of an overdose of fentanyl in Lexington, and another 22-year-old University of Kentuckystudent, Clay Jennings, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of providing the drug to him, Manning reports. Jennings had “no criminal record and a stable home life.” He is to be sentenced Sept. 28.
“After Mason passed away, family and friends asked how they could help,” Manning writes. Reppen’s mother, Kelley Wirth, created a GoFundMe page for drug education in the county that has raised more than $6,700.
“From there, Wirth and her daughter got involved with the Coalition for a Healthy Oldham County through the Oldham County Health Department. A new organization, Youth Linking Oldham County, was also created around that time in partnership with the coalition and Oldham County Schools.” Reppen’s sister helped name the group.
Wirth told Manning, “It’s very hard for all of us because it’s a small community and this disease is attacking a small community,” Wirth said. “We need to treat this disease like we would treat any other disease whether it be cancer or diabetes. We need to help those people that have those addictions.” Manning notes that seven people died of overdoses in Oldham County last year, but the number may be under-reported because deaths that occur in Louisville are attributed to Jefferson County.
Members of the youth group “plan to educate their classmates on the harms of underage drinking, e-cigarettes and other drugs. During the last week of school, they taught fifth graders the harms of these drugs in a special activity,” Manning reports. “Wirth said others could be hiding it from their parents in fear of disappointing them.” She told Manning, “If we keep it up this way, everybody’s going to be so good at hiding it, we’re just going to see death after death after death. . . . We want Mason’s life to make a difference. If we can help one family, one student or young adult, then that’s the important message,” Wirth said. “That’s the important part of this, is to be able to keep it from happening.”