After reporting on the crisis for many years, this reporter was struck with a tragedy within her own family, and decided to share her daughter's story on the news.
Angela Kennecke is a news reporter for Keloland News, who has focused on the opioid crisis in the country for some time. But she never expected to lose one of her own loved ones over drugs.
In May, Kennecke's 21-year-old daughter Emily overdosed on fentanyl and died, leaving her mother struck by the very tragedy she had been warning other families about.
Instead of retreating into herself as she would have had every right to do, Kennecke decided to share Emily's story, in the hopes of raising awareness as someone who has first hand experience with the terrible loss caused by opioids.
After taking a leave of absence from work to cope with her devastating new family life, Kennecke decided that she would use her daughter's story to try and bring about some good.
Nationwide, 2017 statistics show that 72,000 people died of drug overdoses, with numbers up as much 10% in South Dakota from the previous year. Fentanyl, which is mixed into most opioids because of its low cost, is responsible for many of those deaths.
Emily's official cause of death was fentanyl poisoning.
"I thought she was the most amazing kid in the world. I was so proud of her. First of all, she was intellectually gifted. She was artistically gifted. She was athletically gifted. And I used to always tell her with so many gifts comes great responsibility to the world, to bring those gifts to the world," Kennecke said.
The reporter is using her daughter's tragic death to remind people that it can happen to anyone, as addiction doesn't discriminate based on any societal factors such as class or race.
Kennecke realized that the drug culture was reeling her daughter in, but as a concerned parent she had no idea who she could turn to, especially with the stigma attached to addiction.
Everything in my instincts told me something is seriously wrong here. And we would see Emily quite a lot. She wasn't living with us. She was 21 years old. But the more time I spent around her before her death, the more alarm bells went off in my head. And so we hired an interventionist to get her into treatment.
Just three days before the scheduled intervention, Emily died of an overdose.
"As a mom--I have a hole in my heart that will always be there. It is never going to heal. I have other children that I love. I have a husband that I love. But nothing and nobody can replace the loss of my oldest child. And she was only 21," Kennecke explained.
According to the autopsy report, Emily had six times what would be considered a therapeutic dose of fentanyl for a large man, and she was just a small woman. That fentanyl killed her almost instantly after she injected it.
Kennecke has since set up a fund called "Emily's Hope" with the goal to help other young people struggle to beat their addictions.