It was a very tough day back at work on Monday for Nashville Mayor Megan Barry. A few days earlier, Mayor Barry and her husband Bruce were informed in the early hours of the morning that their 22-year-old son Max had died of an apparent drug overdose in Colorado. It was a message no parent ever wants to hear.
At an emotional news conference from her office, Barry thanked Nashvillians for their outpouring of support, which she said provided a "counter-balance" to her grief. "I get to get up every day now and I don't ever get to talk to my son again," she said. "Max is not going to text me back. I'm not going to hear his voice again."
Mayor Barry said paramedics administered Narcan to her son—the opioid antagonist often used for the reversal of an overdose—but they were unable to save Max’s life. She talked about Max's substance use, saying he had "occasional brushes" with drugs that prompted him to check into a rehab facility for a month in 2016.
While she continues to mourn her only child, she also wants to find ways to do more to combat the addiction epidemic in the country.
“I don’t want his death to define his life, but we have to have a frank conversation about how he died. We don't have the full autopsy yet, we don't have the final toxicology report, but the reality is that Max overdosed on drugs,” Barry said. “My hope is that it may inspire and encourage other parents out there … and that if that saves one life, what a blessing.”
Max Barry’s death comes amid a nationwide rise in fatal drug overdoses. In 2015, overdose deaths surpassed the 50,000 mark for the first time and drug overdoses now rank as the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. In Tennessee, state officials report 1,451 people died from drug overdoses in 2015—the highest annual number of overdose deaths recorded in state history.
Max Barry’s death shows that substance misuse can devastate any family at any time anywhere in the US. Calls for a coordinated national effort to tackle the crisis are now intensifying. On July 31, the White House panel examining the nation's opioid epidemic urged President Trump to declare a national public health emergency.
"Our citizens are dying. We must act boldly to stop it," the commission, chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, said in the interim report submitted to the President.